To say the Lightning have struggled this year would be an understatement. From the beginning of the 2015-16 season the team has been dealing with injuries to the forward corps. Even if players weren't missing, some seemed to be playing hurt or at least not at 100%. Tyler Johnson seemed to still be coming back from his wrist injury. Alex Killorn had something going on and was not playing at 100%. Cedric Paquette was struggling trying to come back from complications brought on by blocking a shot in the preseason.
It didn't take long for even more injuries to introduce themselves to the lineup either. Since the get go, the team has constantly had to juggle the lines, the power play unit, the penalty killers, and the seating arrangement on the team plane to accommodate injuries and roster fluctuation. We've seen Syracuse Crunch forwards Tye McGinn, Mike Blunden, Jonathan Marchessault, Mike Angelidis, Joel Vermin and Yanni Gourde all make appearances (and Marchessault earn a roster spot) through the first half of the season.
With Ondrej Palat's return in Saturday's game, we finally saw the return of the opening night roster. Well, with two exceptions: Erik Condra was a healthy scratch with Cedric Paquette healthy again and Jonathan Drouin had been assigned to the Syracuse Crunch with Marchessault holding a wing position instead. Now it's come out that Drouin and his agent requested a trade all the way back in November as Drouin was unhappy with his playing time in Tampa. I won't go too much into all of that here because it's been and is being covered ad nauseam elsewhere. Whether you agree with how the team has used him or not, for now, he is not with the club at the NHL level. He may be back soon, or he may be traded, or he may spend the rest of the season in the AHL. Only time will answer that.
However, with most of the rest of the team, this upcoming road trip through western Canada will be an opportunity for to come together, bond, and get themselves back into the race. Their four game road trip starts Tuesday night against the Calgary Flames, and continues Friday against the Edmonton Oilers, Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks and concludes the following Tuesday against the Colorado Avalanche before heading home. They'll return to Amalie Arena Friday the 15th against the Penguins.
They'll have four non-game days during this trip. They'll have an opportunity to get some hard practice in. They'll be able to have dinners together. Spend time together. And do that all away from the rink and away from other distractions. Hopefully, the roster can rediscover some of the chemistry they had last season and bring the magic back to Amalie Arena again.