Earlier today, Jon Cooper mentioned that Brayden Point and Anthony Cirelli are both game-time decisions for tonight’s Tampa Bay Lightning game against the New York Rangers. The players were not on the ice for morning skate, but speculation was that they were out for body maintenance rather than injury.
During morning skate, Carter Verhaeghe filled in at Point’s spot centering Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov, and Cedric Paquette filled in for Anthony Cirelli between Alex Killorn and Yanni Gourde.
Cooper said Point and Cirelli both game time decisions #TBLightning— Joe Smith (@JoeSmithTB) October 29, 2019
It is not clear whether these lines will hold, or whether the Lightning will run an 11/7 formation tonight — it likely depends upon whether one or both forwards are out. It is also not clear when, exactly, Point and Cirelli sustained injuries in the last game against the Nashville Predators. Point was on the ice for two shifts in overtime including the game-ending goal.
Verhaeghe and Paquette filling in at center with Point and Cirelli absent from skate.— Caley Chelios (@CaleyChelios) October 29, 2019
D pairings rotated. https://t.co/uqRlCej154
If these lines hold for the game and both are unable to go, it will be interesting to see how Verhaeghe takes hold of the opportunity to play with very skilled players. His possession stats when away from Pat Maroon and Luke Witkowski have been very good, while his possession numbers tanked when he was with those two on the fourth line. He’s got skill and can play, though how high that ceiling is is still up for debate. This could be the opportunity to show he has enough skill to bump Witkowski from the lineup when Point and Cirelli return.
Additionally for Paquette, it will be interesting to see how he reacts to playing with some better players. The past couple of seasons, his possession numbers have not been great, but he had an offensive outburst in goals scored last year. Can he take advantage of Killorn and Gourde to show that he’s still got some of that touch to put the puck in the net?
The good thing for the Lightning is that the New York Rangers are still rebuilding their roster and also suffering some injury issues of their own. Even with the Lightning losing two centers, they still have better depth down the middle than the Rangers, and much of the NHL for that matter.