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Tampa Bay Lightning at Colorado Avalanche preview: Who will weather the storm?

After picking up a point in Dallas follow their bye week, the Lightning look to get two much needed points against the not very good Colorado Avalanche.

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Lightning (25-24-8) at Colorado Avalanche (16-38-2): GAME 58

Time: 8:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: Pepsi Center

Broadcast/Streaming: ALT-TV, SUN

Opponent SBNation Site: Mile High Hockey

Preview

Let’s start with the obvious. The Avs are bad. They have struggled in almost every area this season. The comparison chart at the bottom of the page puts a visual to it. They generate so little offense that even their defensive improvement over last season isn’t enough to keep them from being the worst team in the NHL. If the Lightning are going to make a run at getting back into the playoff race in the Atlantic, they cannot leave Denver with anything less than two points.

Even as bad as the Avs are, the Bolts face some complicating factors. They are on the second night of a back to back immediately following their bye week. This is the first year of the bye week so we don’t have any history to use as a guide, but having five days off and then immediately playing a back-to-back with travel seems like it might be an issue. Denver is also notorious for its altitude, which can cause fatigue issues for visiting teams. Combine that with the back-to-back and it might be a problem for Tampa.

The Avs also beat the Lightning earlier this season. And the game wasn’t close. Colorado won 4-0 in Tampa on October 20th. In that game, Matt Duchene had three points to lead the Avs in a convincing win at Amalie arena. If the outcome of tonight’s game is similar, it could signal the end of the Lightning as any sort of competitor in the eastern conference.

Jonathan Drouin was questionable for last night’s game in Dallas due to illness. He played and had a decent game but didn’t seem to be his normal dynamic self. Another day should help get him back closer to full health. But a long night of travel and the altitude in Denver could also send him in the other direction. In the event that he can’t play, Cory Conacher is still with the team and could take his place. Luke Witkowski is also available if head coach Jon Cooper would prefer to use a seven defender lineup in Drouin’s absence.

Just as they did last weekend, the Bolts started Andrei Vasilevskiy on the first night of a back to back against a stronger opponent and saved Ben Bishop for the second night against a weaker opponent. Last weekend, they lost in the shootout on night one against the Wild and then picked up both points on night two against Winnipeg. This back to back is off to a similar start with the Lightning losing in overtime last night. They’ll look to repeat last week’s pattern and get a win against Colorado tonight.

The Lightning are the clear favorite in tonight’s game. The Avalanche don’t have much to offer to compete with Tampa’s depth. The Avs rely heavily on Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan McKinnon, and Matt Duchene to drive their offense. That was enough to win in Tampa in October. The Bolts will need to make sure that doesn’t happen again tonight in Colorado.

With a (nearly) fully healthy team outside of Steven Stamkos, the Lightning have been playing better over the last few weeks. Anything less than two points tonight would be a massive disappointment. And we’ve had enough of that this season. So let’s hope tonight ends in a victory.

Comparison Chart

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

Vlad Namestnikov - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov

Brian Boyle - Valtteri Filppula - Ondrej Palat

Alex Killorn - Brayden Point - Jonathan Drouin

Gabriel Dumont - Cedric Paquette - JT Brown

Defense Pairings

Victor Hedman - Jake Dotchin

Jason Garrison - Anton Stralman

Braydon Coburn - Andrej Sustr

Goaltenders

Ben Bishop

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Dallas Stars

Forward Lines

Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan McKinnon - Mikko Rantanen

Mikhail Grigorenko - Matt Duchene - Matt Nieto

Blake Comeau - John Mitchell - Jarome Iginla

Andreas Martinsen - Carl Soderberg - Joe Colborne

Defense Pairings

Nikita Zadorov - Francois Beauchemin

Fedor Tyutin - Tyson Barrie

Mark Barberio - Cody Goloubef

Goalies

Calvin Pickard

Jeremy Smith