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Columbus Blue Jackets at Tampa Bay Lightning: Time to get back to winning

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The Lightning had two days off, now it’s time for the final push of the season

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

Columbus Blue Jackets at Tampa Bay Lightning: GAME 35

Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: Amalie Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: Fox SUN, FS-O

Opponent SBNation Site: The Cannon

Sometimes the best way to get better at hockey is to get away from it for a little bit. The Tampa Bay Lightning took that approach as both of their recent off days were spent away from the rink. For a team that had been through a brutal stretch of play, the relaxation was more important than practice.

Tonight they begin another two-week stretch of playing every other night before they have two days off in a row. As they look to get back to their winning ways and maintain their spot at the top of the Central Division they will seeing quite a bit of tonight’s opponents. Four of the next six games will be against the Blue Jackets as the Lightning take them on twice at home and then twice on the road (with a two-game series against Detroit sandwiched in between).

Columbus should be a good opponent for the Bolts to try and reacquire their defensive structure that has abandoned them at points during their recent play. The Blue Jackets aren’t an offensively explosive team as they rank 27th in goals per game (2.47), 26th in power play percentage (14.9%), and 31st in 5v5 shot attempt percentage (46.2%). Expect the Lightning to spend a lot of time in their offensive zone.

On the back end, the Bolts should hopefully be getting a big piece back soon. In Tuesday’s morning skate, Ryan McDonagh was on the ice, cycling in on the pairings. While he might not be back on the ice for the first game against the Blue Jackets, it’s a good sign that he’ll be back soon to provide a little stability on the penalty kill and on defense in general.

The Blue Jackets are fighting for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division. They are currently three points behind the Predators and Blackhawks thanks to a four-game winless streak. Their offense has virtually disappeared during the streak as they scored just five goals (three of those in one game) during the four losses. With six games in a row against the Lightning and Florida Panthers, this could be the make-or-break stretch of the season for them.

Tampa Bay Lightning Lines

Forwards

Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Tyler Johnson

Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Steven Stamkos

Barclay Goodrow - Yanni Gourde - Blake Coleman

Pat Maroon - Ross Colton - Mathieu Joseph

Based on the morning skate it looks like the Lightning are returning to their more traditional lines with the exception of Tyler Johnson getting a look on the top line.

Defense

Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta

Mikhail Sergachev - Luke Schenn

Andreas Borgman - Cal Foote

Ryan McDonagh participated in the morning skate and looks to be a game-time decision. Erik Cernak was not on the ice.

Goalies

Curtis McElhinney

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Per Bryan Burns, Vasilevskiy was in the starter’s net, but McElhinney was the first off the ice.

Columbus Blue Jackets Lines

Forwards

Patrik Laine - Jack Roslovic - Cam Atkinson

Max Domi - Kevin Stenlund - Oliver Bjorkstrand

Boone Jenner - Alexandre Texier - Nick Foligno

Riley Nash - TBD - Eric Robinson

Defense

Zach Werenski - Seth Jones

Vladislav Gavrikov - David Savard

Gabriel Carlsson - Michael Del Zotto

Goaltenders

Elvis Merzlikins

Joonas Korpisalo