Time: 3:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: Scotiabank Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: NBCSN, SN, SUN, FS-O, TVAS
Opponent SBNation Site: Jackets Cannon
The road to the Stanley Cup is never easy. For the Tampa Bay Lightning, this year’s path begins with a very familiar opponent — those pesky Columbus Blue Jackets, who just dispatched the Toronto Maple Leafs in 5 games and made it look very easy most of the time.
The biggest advantage the Lightning have over the Blue Jackets is that they are well-rested. However, the Blue Jackets are healthier, having gotten back top defensemen Zach Werenski and Ryan Murray back in time for Game 5 against Toronto.
Meanwhile, the Lightning will start this series without Steven Stamkos and Jan Rutta, with Victor Hedman’s status ‘to be determined’ for this afternoon’s game. The Bolts struggled mightily after he left their final round robin game against Philadelphia and will need a full team effort in order to overcome his absence if he’s unable to play.
Columbus proved in their qualifier series that they are the same, offense-stifling, relentless team that swept Tampa Bay last year. Hopefully the Lightning have learned from that tough lesson, but it means they can’t be at any less than their best in every game. The Blue Jackets may not be as offensively talented, but they are opportunistic, and they will make the Lightning pay if they make mistakes.
Regardless, it should be another intense, hard-fought series — that hopefully ends up being closer than last year’s. Lightning playoff hockey is back. There’s no better way to fight your way for a Stanley Cup than to kick the journey off by exorcising past playoff demons.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Tyler Johnson
Barclay Goodrow - Yanni Gourde - Blake Coleman
Cedric Paquette - Mitchell Stephens - Carter Verhaeghe
Alex Volkov, Mathieu Joseph
Injured: Steven Stamkos
Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev - Kevin Shattenkirk
Braydon Coburn - Zach Bogosian
Injured: Victor Hedman, Jan Rutta
Columbus Blue Jackets
Alexandre Texier - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Cam Atkinson
Gustav Nyquist - Boone Jenner - Nick Foligno
Liam Foudy - Riley Nash - Oliver Bjorkstrand
Eric Robinson - Alexander Wennberg - Nathan Gerbe
Zach Werenski - Seth Jones
Vladislav Gavrikov - David Savard
Ryan Murray - Markus Nutivaara
Injured: Elvis Merzlikins