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Lightning vs. Senators: Help me, Andrei Vasilveskiy. You’re my only hope.

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After winning despite being outplayed by the Rangers in New York, the Lightning travel to play Ottawa on Tuesday.

Ottawa Senators v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning (33-26-9, 75 points) at Ottawa Senators (39-22-6, 84 points): GAME 69 (NICE!)

Time: 7:30 pm Eastern Time

Location: Canadian Tire Center

Broadcast/Streaming: RDS2, SUN-S

Opponent SBNation Site: Silver Seven Sens

Comparison chart:

Preview:

I started with the comparison chart for two reasons. First, I made it and I’m writing the preview so I can do what I want. Second, look at it. If I told you one of those teams has 84 points and is second in the Atlantic while the other one has 75 points and is out of the playoffs, you would undoubtedly say the Lightning are the team with more points. But that’s not the cause because...well...hockey.

The Sens have been the most fortunate team in the league this season. They sit comfortably in the playoffs with a chance to win the division despite being a bottom-ten team in both score adjusted shot share and expected goal share according to corsica.hockey. This isn’t to say the Lightning are a power house. They’re in the middle of the pack league wide. But they’ve been better than Ottawa by just about any measure except wins and losses.

Unfortunately for the Lightning, none of that matters. The Sens are locked into a first round matchup likely against the Bruins or the Rangers. The Bolts will have to continue winning almost every night just to win the booby prize of running into a juggernaut Washington Capitals team in the first round.

The Lightning are still depleted at forward. Cedric Paquette is not on the road trip. Tyler Johnson hasn’t skated since his injury. Vladislav Namestnikov aggravated his injury last night making it unlikely he’ll play. If that’s the case, look for either Matt Peca or Cory Conacher to be recalled. I’ve pencilled in Peca in the lines but that’s just a guess.

Last night against the Rangers, the Lightning relied heavily on one line to carry them. Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat bore almost all the responsibility for putting any pressure on the opposition. That will have to change if the Lightning want to keep winning. They need at least one more line to step up and be able to share the load. That will likely have to be the Drouin, Killorn, Gourde line but that combination hasn’t yet been effective. Neither Gourde or Killorn plays with the pace or creativity of Drouin, who thrives when he has a skilled partner like Point or Kucherov with whom to combine.

The Senators are also without one of their best players in Mark Stone. Bobby Ryan is injured as well. But even without Stone and Ryan, the Sens still bring a strong first line including newly acquired Alex Burrows, who has looked solid since joining the Sens. Of course, the biggest threat from Ottawa comes from the blue line. Erik Karlsson is one of the best defenders in the league. He’ll face his fellow Swedes Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman, which is always fun for those of us who enjoy Swedefenders.

The Lightning will enter this game on the second half of a back to back with a depleted roster against a well-rested team. But because they started backup goalie Peter Budaj last night against New York, Tampa will have Andrei Vasilevskiy in goal tonight. That might be their best hope at finding a path to victory. If the top line can play the way they have the last two games, and Vasilevskiy continues to perform at his best, the Bolts might just be able to steal another game on the road.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn - Yanni Gourde - Jonathan Drouin

Adam Erne - Byron Froese - Matt Peca

Gabriel Dumont - Greg McKegg - JT Brown

Defense Pairings

Jason Garrison - Anton Stralman

Victor Hedman - Andrej Sustr

Braydon Coburn - Jake Dotchin

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Peter Budaj

Opponent lines

Forward Lines

Matt Hoffman - Derik Brassard - Alex Burrows

Ryan Dzingel - Zack Smith - Chris DiDomenico

Phil Varone - J.G. Pageau - Tom Pyatt

Viktor Stalberg - Chris Kelly - Tommy Wingels

Defense Pairings

Marc Methot - Erik Karlsson

Dion Phaneuf - Cody Ceci

Frederik Claesson - Chris Wideman

Goalies

Craig Anderson

Mike Condon