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Tampa Bay Lightning at Montreal Canadiens preview: The series against divisional opponents continues

Let’s start 2020 with a victory.

Montreal Canadiens v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Mark LoMoglio/NHLI via Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning at Montreal Canadiens: Game 39

Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: Bell Centre

Broadcast/Streaming: RDS, TSN2

Opponent SBNation Site: Eyes on the Prize


After an impressive comeback against the Buffalo Sabres on New Year’s eve, the Tampa Bay Lightning returned to a playoff spot for the first time since start of the season. Their position is still a little bit shaky, as the Florida Panthers are just one point behind. Meanwhile, their series against teams from the Atlantic Division continues and given the Lightning’s record against them, the Bolts have a good opportunity to strengthen their position in the standings. The Lightning are currently 14-2-0 against their divisional opponents during this season.

While trailing the Sabres during the second period of the last game, the Lightning shook up their regular combination. Steven Stamkos moved to the first line with Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point while Ondrej Palat joined Anthony Cirelli and Tyler Johnson on the second line. That doesn’t necessarily means that the Lightning are going to start tonight’s game in the same formation, but at least it showed that the Bolts have a Plan B for games like that.

According to Caley Chelios, Jan Rutta is back in the lineup, after being scratched during the last game. Luke Schenn practiced with Braydon Coburn, both will very likely be scratched tonight.

The last game against the Canadiens went on the same scenario as the game against the Sabres: the Bolts were outplayed during the first half of the game and had to overcome their deficit. The Habs are strong at the even strength: they are second in the league in shot attempts percentage at 54.01% and third in expected goals at 81.77% per Natural Star Trick. On the other side, their goaltending has been an issue this season. Carey Price has -4.13 GSAA this season, although the Lightning are not better in this area as Andrei Vasilevskiy has -4.35 GSAA so far.

When the Lightning played against the Habs about a week ago, we noted that the Canadiens were dealing with a lot of injuries. Since that time, they lost Brendan Gallagher, who didn’t finish their last game against the Hurricanes due to an upper-body issue. Gallagher is the second best player on the Canadiens roster with 32 points in 40 games.

After playing against Montreal, the Lightning will have two back-to-back games on the weekend and then return to Amalie Arena to face the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Steven Stamkos

Pat Maroon - Cedric Paquette - Yanni Gourde

Carter Verhaeghe - Tyler Johnson - Mitchell Stephens

Defense Pairings

Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta

Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak

Mikhail Sergachev - Kevin Shattenkirk

Scratched: Braydon Coburn, Luke Schenn


Andrei Vasilevskiy

Curtis McElhinney

Montreal Canadiens

Forward Lines

Tomas Tatar - Phillip Danault - Jordan Weal

Artturi Lehkonen - Max Domi - Nick Suzuki

Ryan Poehling - Jesperi Kotkaniemi - Nick Cousins

Lukas Vejdemo - Nate Thompson - Dale Weise

Injured: Jonathan Drouin, Joel Armia, Paul Byron, Brendan Gallagher

Defense Pairings

Ben Chiarot - Shea Weber

Brett Kulak - Jeff Petry

Victor Mete - Cale Fleury


Carey Price

Charlie Lindgren