Time: 7:30 pm Eastern Time
Location: Nationwide Arena
Opponent SBNation Site: The Cannon
Tonight is the first game for the Tampa Bay Lightning against the Columbus Blue Jackets since last year’s debacle in the first round of the playoffs. Both teams are currently siting in a playoff spot and there’s a possibility that they will meet again this postseason.
Some things have changed in Columbus since last spring: the team’s biggest stars Artemi Panarin and Sergey Bobrovsky left and while their lives took a different paths after departure, the new teams of both players are currently below the Blue Jackets in the standings. This wasn’t expected before the season. Some experts considered the Blue Jackets a team that would finish the season in the bottom part of the league. According to Micah Blake McCurdy’s point projection, Columbus is currently on pace for 96 points and have a probability of making the playoffs of 60 percent. The playoff race in the Metropolitan Division is very tight as six teams are on pace for 95 or more.
Point projections over the past fortnight. pic.twitter.com/F6bkhpoMUl— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) February 9, 2020
After a pretty slow start of the season, the Blue Jackets made a very impressive run. They’ve won 12 out of 16 games in 2020. The only team that recorded more points over the same span are the Tampa Bay Lightning. What makes their run even more impressive is the fact that they lost several players to injuries during the season including Brandon Dubinsky, Josh Anderson, Joonas Korpisalo and Alexander Wennberg.
This morning, the Blue Jackets also announced that Seth Jones and Cam Atkinson won’t play tonight. The team recalled forward Liam Foudy and defenseman Gabriel Carlsson to replace them.
The injury of Joonas Korpisalo, who was the starting goalie at the start of the season, allowed Elvis Merzlikins to prove himself. During Korpisalo’s absence, Merzlikins leads the NHL in both GSAA and GSAx. He’s won 11 of 14 games over that frame, recording five shutouts.
According to head coach Jon Cooper, Ryan McDonagh will miss more time than was initially expected. Both he and Jan Rutta are week-to-week with lower body injuries and will be evaluated next in a couple of weeks. In their absence, the Lightning went with Braydon Coburn and Luke Schenn as the third pair. Both defenseman played about 13-15 minutes and had less than 40 percent shot share during the last game.
This morning, the Lightning announced that the team recalled Mathieu Joseph from the Syracuse Crunch. He hasn’t played in the NHL since December 29 and recorded 14 (5+9) points in 20 games in the AHL during his stint.
The reason for the recall is that Steven Stamkos has a minor injury and will not play tonight according to head coach Jon Cooper. He’s officially day to day with a lower body injury. The Lightning will also turn to backup goalie Curtis McElhinney tonight on the first half of a back to back that finishes tomorrow on the road against the Penguins.
Stamkos’ absence won’t help what has been one of the Lightning’s biggest problem areas lately, the dreadful conversion percentage on the power play. Since the start of the year, the Lightning are the worst team in the league in power play percentage. During the last eight games, the Lightning haven’t scored any goals with the advantage despite having 20 opportunities.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Tyler Johnson
Patrick Maroon - Cedric Paquette - Mathieu Joseph
Carter Verhaeghe - Mitchell Stephens - Yanni Gourde
Steven Stamkos (injured)
Victor Hedman - Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev - Kevin Shattenkirk
Braydon Coburn - Luke Schenn
Injuries: Jan Rutta, Ryan McDonagh
Scratches: Cameron Gaunce
Columbus Blue Jackets
Nick Foligno - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Oliver Bjorkstrand
Gustav Nyquist - Boone Jenner - Liam Foudy
Sonny Milano - Riley Nash - Emil Bemstrom
Nathan Gerbe - Ryan MacInnis - Eric Robinson
Zach Werenski - Gabriel Carlsson
Vladislav Gavrikov - David Savard
Scott Harrington - Markus Nutivaara
Injuries: Brandon Dubinsky, Josh Anderson, Joonas Korpisalo, Alexandr Texier, Ryan Murray, Dean Kukan, Alexander Wennberg, Cam Atkinson, Seth Jones