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Boston Bruins at Tampa Bay Lightning preview: Atlantic Division heavyweights square off

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Tampa can still close the gap on Boston, but the margin for error is shrinking...

Boston Bruins v Tampa Bay Lightning

Boston Bruins at Tampa Bay Lightning: GAME 66

Time: 7:30 pm Eastern Time

Location: Amalie Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: NBCSN, SNO, SNE, SNP, TVAS

Opponent SBNation Site: Stanley Cup of Chowder

Preview:

Life without Steven Stamkos has begun for the Tampa Bay Lightning. When it was announced that the team would be without their captain until at least the first round of the playoffs, the Bolts responded on the ice by defeating the Calgary Flames — and recent depth acquisitions Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman stepped up in a big way.

Today marks the first of an eight-day stretch where the Lightning play opponents within the Atlantic Division. In fact, they play the Boston Bruins again on Saturday. Although the Bolts were able to end their four game losing streak against Calgary over the weekend, these next five games are critical if they want to close the gap with Boston for first in the division. They do have one game in hand on the Bruins, but they’re still seven points back.

Speaking of Boston, they’ve won two straight games heading into Florida, where they’ll look to increase their stranglehold lead on the Atlantic. They just shut out the New York Islanders on Saturday, and Tuukka Rask will try to repeat that performance against the Lightning tonight. The Bruins did an excellent job of shutting down the Isles’ offense, and their blueline showed up on the scoresheet as well.

A positive heading into tonight for Tampa Bay is their record against Boston this season. They’ve won both of their previous matchups (albeit by one goal, and one was a shootout win). Both teams loaded up at the trade deadline, and will likely have to go through each other at some point in the playoffs to chase the Stanley Cup, so tonight’s game (and Saturday’s!) will be an important measuring stick for the Lightning. Can they close the gap on the Bruins? Yes, but the margin for error is shrinking, so win tonight will help tremendously.

Boston Bruins

Forward Lines

Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Pastrnak

Nick Ritchie - David Krejci - Ondrej Kase

Jake DeBrusk - Charlie Coyle - Karson Kuhlman

Sean Kuraly - Par Lindholm - Chris Wagner

Anders Bjork, Joakim Nordstrom, Anton Blidh

Defense Pairings

Zdeno Chara - Charlie McAvoy

Torey Krug - Brandon Carlo

Matt Grzelcyk - Jeremy Lauzon

John Moore, Connor Clifton

Goaltenders

Tuukka Rask

Jaroslav Halak

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

Blake Coleman - Anthony Cirelli - Alex Killorn

Barclay Goodrow - Tyler Johnson - Yanni Gourde

Patrick Maroon - Mitchell Stephens - Cedric Paquette

Carter Verhaeghe

Injured: Steven Stamkos

Defense Pairings

Victor Hedman - Erik Cernak

Mikhail Sergachev - Kevin Shattenkirk

Braydon Coburn - Zach Bogosian

Luke Schenn

Injured: Ryan McDonagh, Jan Rutta

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Curtis McElhinney