Time: 8:30 pm Eastern Time
Location: United Center
Opponent SBNation Site: Second City Hockey
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
Tyler Johnson - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej Palat - Steven Stamkos - Cory Conacher
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Mathieu Joseph
Patrick Maroon - Cedric Paquette - Yanni Gourde
Victor Hedman - Kevin Shattenkirk
Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev - Luke Schenn
Scratched: Jan Rutta, Braydon Coburn
Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Alex Nylander
Alex DeBrincat - Dylan Strome - Patrick Kane
Andrew Shaw - David Kampf - Dominik Kubalik
Ryan Carpenter - Kirby Dach - Zach Smith
Duncan Keith - Erik Gustafsson
Calvin De Haan - Brent Seabrook
Olli Maatta - Connor Murphy