Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: Amalie Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: ESPN+, BSSUN, MSG+
Opponent SBNation Site: Blueshirt Banter
Yesterday the Tampa Bay Lightning took a big slap in the face, losing 9-3 to the Florida Panthers, while playing with a very depleted roster on a night when three players made their debuts in the Lightning’s jersey. Tonight, on the last day of 2021, the Lightning are facing another playoff contender from the Eastern Conference — the New York Rangers.
Guessing the roster for tonight’s game is still a bit of a mystery. Yesterday, the Lightning received back Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Coach Cooper, but lost Taylor Raddysh and Cal Foote, who entered the COVID-19 protocol. Recently the NHL have modified their protocols, allowing fully vaccinated and asymptomatic players to return from isolation five days after their initit positive test. This is adding a little bit of hope that Mikhail Sergachev, Andrei Vasilevskiy or Brian Elliott, who entered the protocol around the same time as Bellemare, could be available for tonight’s game.
The return of Vasilevskiy or Elliott would massively help the Lightning, as both Maxime Lagace and Hugo Alnefelt had a game to forget yesterday. Lagace allowed 6 goals on 27 shots, while Alnefelt 3 goals on 10 shots — definitely not the NHL debut he dreamed of. If both Vasilevskiy and Elliott aren’t ready yet, it would be interesting to see who the Lightning’s coaching staff will put in the net. For Lagace it would be his third game in four days.
The return of Sergachev would also help the Lightning’s defensive core and would take the load off shoulders of Victor Hedman and Jan Rutta, who had the worst of yesterday’s loss. Hedman was on the ice for six opponent’s goals, while Rutta saw the Panthers scoring four times while on the ice. As for forwards, the Lightning have the possibility to bring in Alex Barre-Boulet, who was recalled to the taxi squad yesterday. Since losing a spot on the Lightning roster, Barre-Boulet played in four games with the Syracuse Crunch, scoring one goal and three assists.
Meanwhile, the New York Rangers are coming off a two-game losing streak. In their previous game they also lost to the Florida Panthers, although giving them more fight than the Lightning. As of now, the Rangers have four players in COVID-19 protocol, including Alexandar Georgiev, Ryan Lindgren, Jarred Tiordi, and Kevin Rooney.
This year the Rangers have found themselves in a playoff spot, improving tremendously from last season. Their main strengths are their special units — their power play is sixth in the league with 25.00 PP% and penalty kill is fifth with 84.62 PK%. Their goaltending is another reason why the team is planning a playoff return for the first time in six seasons: Igor Shesterkin is one of the best goalies in the league this season with 7.72 GSAx in 19 games. Artemi Panarin leads the team with 35 points in 30 games, while Chris Kreider is one of the top goalscorers this season with 19 goals in 31 games.
The Lightning will play twice against the Rangers in a span of three days. After tonight’s game at Amalie Arena, the Bolts are heading to Madison Square Garden on January 2.
Tampa Bay Lightning Lines
Ondrej Palat - Steven Stamkos - Ross Colton
Alex Killorn - Brayden Point - Mathieu Joseph
Pat Maroon - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Corey Perry
Boris Katchouk - Riley Nash - Remi Elie
Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh - Zach Bogosian
Darren Raddysh - Sean Day
New York Rangers Lines
Chris Kreider - Mika Zibanejad - Kaapo Kakko
Artemi Panarin - Ryan Strome - Dryden Hunt
Alexis Lafreniere - Filip Chytil - Julien Gauthier
Greg McKegg - Barclay Goodrow - Ryan Reaves
K’Andre Miller - Jacob Trouba
Libor Hajek - Adam Fox
Patrik Nemeth - Nils Lundkvist