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Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Columbus Blue Jackets: The streak is dead, long live the streak

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With one winning streak ended, the Lightning look to start another.

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Tampa Bay Lightning Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Blue Jackets at Tampa Bay Lightning: Game 43

Time: 7:30 pm Eastern Time

Location: Amalie Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: SunS, FSOH

Opponent SBNation Site: Jackets Cannon

Preview:

The Tampa Bay Lightning return home from their California road trip tonight to face the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Bolts’ winning streak and points streak ended on Saturday against the Sharks when they lost in regulation for the first time since the end of November. The loss was a deserved one. They got outplayed by one of their competitors for the claim to being the best team in the NHL.

Even with the loss, the Lightning have still won eight of their last ten and have points in nine of their last ten. The Blue Jackets aren’t far behind them recently with wins in seven of their last ten and points in eight of their last ten. Columbus currently sits third in the Metropolitan Division, three points behind the Capitals and one point behind the Penguins. They’ll likely be in the scrum for wild card positions over the second half of the season.

The big storyline for the Jackets this year is what to do with their two superstars who are headed for unrestricted free agency. Both Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin seem unlikely to re-sign in Columbus. That has prompted trade speculation. But as long as the team looks to be competitive in the Eastern Conference, giving up on the season would be tough to justify.

Once Bobrovsky and Panarin are gone, the team will probably take a step back. This might be their best chance to make a playoff run and to give up on that would be taking asset management to an extreme that would be insulting to fans. And given that the players would only be acquired by their new teams for half of a season, the return likely wouldn’t be enough to justify punting on the last chance to compete with this group of players. When the front office decided not to trade those players over the summer when they might have gotten a bigger return, they locked themselves into going for it this year.

The Lightning enter the game still missing J.T. Miller. That means Adam Erne will continue to stay in the lineup. On defense, Braydon Coburn missed the last game with an injury but was back to skating in a regular jersey yesterday in practice. His injury shuffled the defensive rotation. Erik Cernak was due to miss the previous game so assuming the team wants to get back on track, he figures to be the healthy scratch tonight.

Comparison chart:

At 5v5, the Jackets look close to average on the season. They’ve been better over their last games mostly due to better defensive play. The goaltending has also improved, which is a good sign for a team that has been used to getting stellar play in net from Bobrovsky over the last couple of seasons.

On special teams, Columbus has a league average penalty kill. But their power play is a nightmare. They generate very little offense and finish even less of their chances than expected. That’s a recipe for disastrous results.

The Lightning continue to grade well at 5v5. The offense in particular has been generating better shots in the last ten games. On special teams, the power play has been lights out recently. They’re generating tons of dangerous chances and finishing a high percentage of them.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

Tyler Johnson - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat - Steven Stamkos - Yanni Gourde

ALex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Adam Erne

Mathieu Joseph - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan

J.T. Miller (injured) - Danick Martel

Defense Pairings

Victor Hedman - Dan Girardi

Ryan McDonagh - Anton Stralman

Braydon Coburn - Mikhail Sergachev

Erik Cernak

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Louis Domingue

Columbus Blue Jackets

Forward Lines

Artemi Panarin - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Cam Atkinson

Anthony Duclair - Alexander Wennberg - Josh Anderson

Markus Hannikainen - Boone Jenner - Oliver Bjorkstrand

Lukas Sedlak - Brandon Dubinsky - Riley Nash

Defense Pairings

Zach Werenski - Seth Jones

Ryan Murray - Markus Nutivaara

Dean Kukan - David Savard

Goalies

Sergei Bobrovsky

Joonas Korpisalo