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Tampa Bay Lightning at Chicago Blackhawks Preview: Remember when the Bolts almost won the Stanley Cup?

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Maybe we can beat a bad team?

NHL: NOV 23 Blackhawks at Lightning Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning at Chicago Blackhawks: Game 19

Time: 8:30 pm Eastern Time

Location: United Center

Broadcast/Streaming: SunS

Opponent SBNation Site: Second City Hockey

Preview:

The Lightning head to Chicago on a two-game losing streak after dropping back-to-back games to the Winnipeg Jets and the St. Louis Blues. They couldn’t ask for a much better opponent to try to get back on track. The Hawks are one of the worst teams in the league in terms of shot metrics, and with 21 points, currently sit fifth in the Metro Division.

The Lightning aren’t in much better shape in the standings at sixth in the Atlantic. But their shot metrics are much better. They’re 8th in the NHL in 5v5 expected goal share indicating that while they haven’t gotten great results, they’ve been playing relatively well. The last two games are particularly indicative of that. Despite losing both, they were the better team in terms of expected goals.

Even so, the air of frustration around the team is evident. Fans seem less interested in the idea that the team is playing well enough and things will turn around. Last year’s playoff flameout still hangs heavy and people want to see wins to make that feeling dissipate. Tonight’s opponent is a not so subtle reminder of a how things were at the beginning of this competitive cycle when the Lightning seemed destined for years of happiness amid sustained success.

But sustained success is a funny thing. If it doesn’t result in the ultimate victory, it becomes a source of frustration rather than joy. Oh how naive we were in the spring of 2015. We are now jaded, cynical, husks of fans who can’t possibly be appeased by anything that happens in November. But, if we’re being honest, kicking the Hawks while they’re down would feel pretty good.

The Lightning had several players suffer injuries at various points in the game against the Blues but fortunately, all of them either returned to the game or will be ready to go today. Nikita Kucherov was the only player who didn’t return to the game but the team announced yesterday that he would be back in the lineup tonight.

The team recalled Cory Conacher earlier this week in what was dubbed a precautionary move. He’s still with the club and could draw into the lineup tonight if one of the players who got dinged on Tuesday can’t go after all. But even if everyone is healthy, he still might get a chance to play ahead of Carter Verhaeghe.

Update: Conacher is in for Verhaeghe.

he coaches seem hesitant to give last year’s AHL leading scorer minutes and he had just two real shifts in the third period against the Blues even with the team already short a forward.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

Tyler Johnson - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat - Steven Stamkos - Cory Conacher

Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Mathieu Joseph

Patrick Maroon - Cedric Paquette - Yanni Gourde

Defense Pairings

Victor Hedman - Kevin Shattenkirk

Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak

Mikhail Sergachev - Luke Schenn

Scratched: Jan Rutta, Braydon Coburn

Goaltenders

Curtis McElhinney

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Chicago Blackhawks

Forward Lines

Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Alex Nylander

Alex DeBrincat - Dylan Strome - Patrick Kane

Andrew Shaw - David Kampf - Dominik Kubalik

Ryan Carpenter - Kirby Dach - Zach Smith

Defense Pairings

Duncan Keith - Erik Gustafsson

Calvin De Haan - Brent Seabrook

Olli Maatta - Connor Murphy

Goalies

Robin Lehner

Corey Crawford