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Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Chicago Preview: Thanksgiving hangover hockey

This game pairs perfectly with a turkey sandwich.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Chicago Blackhawks Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago at Tampa Bay Lightning: Game #22

Time: 7:30 pm Eastern Time

Location: Amalie Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: NBCS, NSCH

Opponent SBNation Site: Second City Hockey

Preview:

As those who celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday recover from their turkey day hangovers, the Lightning prepare to host Chicago tonight at Amalie. What was a Stanley Cup Final a few years ago is now a matchup of two teams in different places in their competitive cycle.

The Lightning are still inside their window hoping to make another deep playoff run this season. The Hawks...are not. They fired legendary coach Joel Quenneville last week and are currently second last in the Metropolitan Division. I’m not sure how firing one of the best coaches in the league is supposed to make a team better, but Chicago General Manager Stan Bowman is trying to find out.

The Hawks have alternated wins and losses over the last five games including a loss to the Washington Capitals in their most recent outing. Chicago is a top heavy team that relies heavily on veterans Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews. Patrick Kane continues to score but not contribute much else. His defensive impacts are even worse than they’ve been in the past and his offensive impacts aren’t what they used to be.

The bright spot for the Hawks has been the emergence of Alex Debrincat and Henri Jokiharju. Debrincat gives them another forward to go along with their aging core and Jokiharju is possibly their best player on the blue line even in his rookie season. But while those two players make Chicago better, that’s not enough depth to keep them a contender.

The Lightning enter this game still missing Andrei Vasilevskiy and Ondrej Palat. Anton Stralman has been practicing lately and could return tonight but we won’t know until later in the day. If he’s out, that means Erik Cernak will get another NHL game and at this point, every minute he gets on the ice at this level is valuable to his development.

Comparison Chart:

Chicago has an interesting gap between shot quantity and shot quality. They hold their own on the shot clock but their expected goal numbers are terrible on both offense and defense at 5v5. The only area where they look good is in net and that’s due to Corey Crawford. He continues to be one of the best goaltenders in the league and he covers up just how bad the Hawks’ defense is.

On special teams, Chicago is a nightmare. The power play and the penalty kill have both been among the worst in the league. The penalty kill in particular could be a problem for them tonight against Tampa’s power play. The top unit has been clicking since Brayden Point re-joined it recently. His addition along with the return of Victor Hedman from injury gives them four legitimate scoring threats. Putting those two alongside Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos makes that unit almost impossible to handle defensively.

Today is a full slate of games starting at 1 PM with Flyers vs. Rangers and the last game starting at 9 PM on the east coast featuring Vancouver and San Jose. That means, if you’re so inclined, you could spend a solid 11ish hours watching hockey today with the Lightning game being the main feature.

That doesn’t sound like a bad way to recover from Thanksgiving.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

J.T. Miller - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov

Yanni Gourde - Brayden Point - Tyler Johnson

Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Mathie Joseph

Adam Erne - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan

Danick Martel - Ondrej Palat (injured)

Defense Pairings

Victor Hedman - Dan Girardi

Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak

Braydon Coburn - Mikhail Sergachev

Slater Koekkoek - Anton Stralman (injured)

Goaltenders

Louis Domingue

Eddie Pasquale - Andrei Vasilevskiy (injured)

Opponent lines

Forward Lines

Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Kane

Alex Debrincat - Artem Anisimov - Nick Schmaltz

Alexandre Fortin - David Kampf - Dominik Kahun

Andreas Martinsen - Marcus Kruger - John Hayden

Defense Pairings

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook

Erik Gustafsson - Henri Jokiharju

Brandon Manning - Jan Rutta

Goalies

Corey Crawford

Cam Ward