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Boston Bruins at Tampa Bay Lightning preview: Desperate times are here

If the Lightning want to make the playoffs they need to win immediately and often.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Boston Bruins Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Boston Bruins (25-21-6) at Tampa Bay Lightning (22-22-6): GAME 51

Time: 7:30 pm Eastern Time

Location: Amalie Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: SunSports, NESN, TVA, RSN

Opponent SBNation Site: Stanley Cup of Chowder

Preview

There are 31 games left in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s season and they somehow need to amass 46 points to have a shot at the playoffs (96 points is the bar usually set to make the playoffs). It’s not impossible for a team to average almost a point-and-a-half a game over a 30 game stretch, but it is going to be a challenge. Especially considering they’ve averaged exactly a point a game so far through the first 50 games.

Luckily their schedule should ease up during the home stretch, right?

Oh dear, that doesn’t look good.

It would be tremendously helpful to grab two points from a team they’re chasing in the Bruins. Boston is currently sitting in the third spot in the Atlantic, six points ahead of the Lightning. They are one of the few teams that have played more games than the Lightning, having already completed 52 contests this season.

Their defense has picked up their play a bit in recent games, not allowing more than two goals in five of their last six games. Unfortunately (with the exception of the game in Chicago) their offense has gone missing and they’ve only picked up 6 points in those six games.

At this point in the season they can’t afford to leave anymore points on the ice. If they don’t score they won’t be able to do that. The Lightning need someone other than Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin to start scoring. The good news is that it looks like Alex Killorn might be getting back on track as he’s picked up 3 points in his last two games.

Other good news is that Brayden Point is getting close to coming back. While he won’t play against Boston, there is a chance he’ll be back during the homestand. His speed and drive would be a welcome addition to the team.

As for Boston, they have won two games in a row, including a 4-3 victory over the Penguins right before the All-Star break. Brad Marchand is rolling, leading the team in points (49) and goals (21). New addition David Pastrnak has already eclipsed the 20-goal mark for the Bruins and has five points in his last three games.

After Monday's practice, the Bruins’ website reported that head coach Claude Julien preached about consistency for the final three dozen games on the team’s schedule. The Bruins have played 52 games in 106 days before the All-Star break, tied for most int he league with the Jets and Flames. It certainly has been a compacted season thanks for the World Cup, All-Star break and teams getting a “bye week” randomly.

New York Rangers v Boston Bruins Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The status of defenseman Brandon Carlo, who’s been on the pairing with Zdeno Chara, is uncertain. He didn’t practice on Monday.

It’s too early (or late) to start talking about “must win” games, but the Lightning could really help their cause by picking up a clean two points against the Bruins tonight. Including this game, the Lightning and Bruins play each other three more times this season. Sweeping these games would be a tremendous boon for their playoff hopes.

Comparison Chart

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

Ondrej Palat - Vlad Namestnikov - Nikita Kucherov

Brian Boyle - Valtteri Filppula - Jonathan Drouin

Alex Killorn - Tyler Johnson - Ryan Callahan (ha ha ha just kidding) JT Brown

Gabriel Dumont - Cedric Paquette - Brayden Point (maybe)

Defense Pairings

Braden Coburn - Anton Stralman

Jason Garrison - Andrej Sustr

Victor Hedman- Jake Dotchin

Luke Witkowski

Goaltenders

Ben Bishop

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Boston Bruins

Forward Lines

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pasternak

Frank Vatrano - David Krejci - David Backes

Matt Beleskey - Ryan Spooner - Riley Nash

Tim Schaller - Dominic Moore - Jimmy Hayes

Defense Pairings

Zdeno Chara - Brandon Carlo

Torey Krug - Adam McQuaid

Colin Miller - Kevin Miller

Goalies

Tuukka Rask

Anton Khudobin

Lines will be updated throughout the day to reflect any trades, injuries or Erik Condra callups.