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Tampa Bay Lightning at Columbus Blue Jackets preview: The first meeting since last year’s playoffs

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Some wounds haven’t healed yet.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Columbus Blue Jackets - Game Four Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning at Columbus Blue Jackets Game 56

Time: 7:30 pm Eastern Time

Location: Nationwide Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: NBCSN

Opponent SBNation Site: The Cannon

Preview:

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.

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

Forward Lines

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)

Defense Pairings

Victor Hedman - Erik Cernak

Mikhail Sergachev - Kevin Shattenkirk

Braydon Coburn - Luke Schenn

Injuries: Jan Rutta, Ryan McDonagh

Scratches: Cameron Gaunce

Goaltenders

Curtis McElhinney

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Columbus Blue Jackets

Forward Lines

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

Defense Pairings

Zach Werenski - Gabriel Carlsson

Vladislav Gavrikov - David Savard

Scott Harrington - Markus Nutivaara

Goalies

Elvis Merzlikins

Matiss Kivlenieks

Injuries: Brandon Dubinsky, Josh Anderson, Joonas Korpisalo, Alexandr Texier, Ryan Murray, Dean Kukan, Alexander Wennberg, Cam Atkinson, Seth Jones