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Montreal Canadiens at Tampa Bay Lightning Preview and Game Day Thread: Back to action? Maybe?

Both teams have been heavily impacted by COVID-19

Tampa Bay Lightning v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Montreal Canadiens at Tampa Bay Lightning: GAME #31

Time: 7:00 pm ET, probably

Location: Amalie Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: ESPN+, HULU, RDS, TSN2

Opponent SB Nation Site: Habs Eyes on the Prize

The NHL is going to resume their season after a short COVID-19 break, despite the fact that all the issues the league has been dealing with before the break haven’t disappeared. More players and staff members entered the league’s COVID-19 protocol after the NHL started testing again on Sunday. As of now, tonight’s game between Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens hasn’t been postponed, however the rosters of both teams have been impacted seriously with COVID-19 related absences.

On Monday morning the Lightning added two more players to the NHL’s COVID protocol list. One of them is Anthony Cirelli, who was literally pulled out from the room prior to the practice according to the Lightning assistant coach Derek Lalonde. Another is Andrej Sustr, who was recalled on the same morning from the Syracuse Crunch to the taxi-squad. Those players joined goaltenders Andrei Vasilevskiy and Brian Elliott, forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, defenceman Mikhail Sergachev, assistant coach Rob Zettler and head coach Jon Cooper, who are already on that list. All mentioned persons are either asymptomatic or have minor symptoms.

Sustr wasn’t the only players recalled from Syracuse on that day. Alongside him, the Lightning recalled Darren Raddysh — older brother of the Lightning rookie Taylor Raddysh. With Sergachev and Sustr on the COVID-19 protocol list and Erik Cernak still recovering from his injury, there’s a strong chance that both brothers will step on the ice in the Lightning jerseys. It will be also an NHL debut for Darren Raddysh, who spent five previous seasons in the AHL. Yesterday he practiced on the third pair alongside with Cal Foote.

[With both Raddyshes on the ice, we can make a whole salad. - Acha]

In order to replace unavailable Vasilevskiy and Elliott, the Lightning also recalled goaltenders Maxime Lagace and Hugo Alnefelt from Syracuse. Lagace, who played in 18 NHL games in his career, more recently on on May 8, 2021 with the Pittsburgh Penguins, is expected to be a starting goalie this evening with Alnefelt backing up him from the bench. Defenceman Sean Day was also recalled to the taxi squad.

Finally some good news for Lightning fans — Brayden Point appeared at Monday’s practice in a regular jersey and practiced on the second line with Alex Killorn and Mathieu Joseph and later on the top power play unit. According to the Lightning’s assistant coach Derek Lalonde, Point is officially in day-to-day category and might return tonight against the Canadiens, but the decision is expected to be made this morning. Nikita Kucherov has also appeared on the ice yesterday morning, but he’s further away from his return.

The Habs have been also heavily slammed with COVID-19 related absences. On Monday morning they placed goaltender Jake Allen and defensemen Ben Chiarot, Joel Edmundson, Jeff Petry and Chris Wideman on the protocol, adding them to already unavailable Laurent Dauphin, Mike Hoffman, Artturi Lehkonen and Tyler Toffoli, who have been on that list before. The Canadiens recalled Cayden Primeau and Corey Schueneman from their AHL affiliate Laval Rocket and added several more players to the taxi-squad for their trip to Tampa.

Both tonight’s opponent have already met once this season, it was about three weeks ago in Montreal. On that day, the Bolts defeated the Habs 3-2 after scoring two quick goals by Corey Perry and Ondrej Palat at the end of the third period.

The Canadiens won their pervious game against the Philadelphia Flyers on December 16 after losing seven straight games. With 7-21-3 record they’re last in the Atlantic Division and have one of the lowest point percentage in the league. The Lightning on the other side, are leading not only the Atlantic Division, but the whole league with 44 points in 30 games, losing just once in regulation over the previous ten games.

The Lightning will finish this year with back-to-back games against the Florida Panthers and the New York Rangers, but given the ongoing COVID-19 situations, the things could change very quickly and some games could be still postponed, including the tonight’s one.

Tampa Bay Lightning Lines

(lines from yesterday’s practice)

Forwards

Ondrej Palat — Steven Stamkos — Taylor Raddysh

Alex Killorn — Brayden Point — Mathieu Joseph

Patrick Maroon — Ross Colton — Corey Perry

Boris Katchouk — Riley Nash — Gabriel Fortier

Defense

Victor Hedman — Jan Rutta

Ryan McDonagh — Zach Bogosian

Darren Raddysh — Cal Foote

Goaltenders

Maxime Lagace - Confirmed Starter

Hugo Alnefelt

Montreal Canadiens Lines

(lines from yesterday’s practice)

Forwards

Jonathan Drouin — Nick Suzuki — Brendan Gallagher

Rafael Harvey-Pinard — Ryan Poehling — Cole Caufield

Alex Belzile — Jake Evans — Jesse Ylonen

Michael Pezzetta — Cedric Paquette — Lukas Vejdemo

Defense

Alexander Romanov — David Savard

Brett Kulak — Kale Clague

Corey Schueneman — Sami Niku

Goaltenders

Cayden Primeau

Samuel Montembeault - Confirmed Starter