Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: Amalie Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: NBCSN, SN
Opponent SBNation Site: The Cannon
The Tampa Bay Lightning are finishing this season’s series against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday night at Amalie Arena. Despite being the worst team in the division and even giving up a spot in the standings to the Detroit Red Wings, Columbus has been a very tough opponent this season. Currently the Lightning lead them 4-3 during this regular season, with the Blue Jackets slightly outshooting the Bolts 21-20.
The Lightning haven’t won two games in a row in the past two weeks, scoring three goals or less in each game during this timespan. The Lightning are still struggling with converting their chances, however couple of their players – Blake Coleman and Ondrej Palat – have broken their scoreless draughts in the previous game.
Entering tonight’s game, the Blue Jackets are 1-8-1 during the last 10 games with eight consecutive losses in a row. The only victory during this stretch is the win over the Lightning on April 6. In fact both of Columbus’ most recent victories came against Tampa Bay. The Jackets were finally officially eliminated from the playoff race after the Nashville Predators defeated the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday.
The Blue Jackets await a long rebuilding process, which frankly should have started a very long time ago. The team have traded two of their leaders – David Savard and Nick Foligno (although Foligno could return in the offseason) and will try to trade one of their goaltenders in the next offseason (most likely Elvis Merzlikins). John Tortorella is the most likeliest candidate to leave the team. The Blue Jackets head coach spent too much time confronting with his top players – most recent Max Domi – while his team were underperforming.
After a five-day rest, Andrei Vasilevskiy is expected to return in the Lightning’s net. Curtis McElhinney did a great job in the previous game, stopping 24 of 25 opponent’s shots and bouncing back from his previous game, when he allowed 7 goals on 22 shots against the Predators.
Jan Rutta started skating this week with the team this week. He hasn’t played since the end of March and expected to return before the end of the regular season. Rutta will potentially replace Luke Schenn in the lineup, who has been playing about 10 minutes per game mostly with Mikhail Sergachev on the third pair.
Jan Rutta said he's been skating for two days now, is hopeful he'll be able to return to action before the end of the regular season. #Bolts— Bryan Burns (@BBurnsNHL) April 23, 2021
The Lightning finish their 10-day homestand tonight and head to Chicago on Tuesday for the final game of the regular season against the Blackhawks. With nine games remaining this regular season, the Lightning are currently third in the Central Division, four points behind the divisional leader Carolina Hurricanes.
Tampa Bay Lightning Lines
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Alex Barre-Boulet
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Tyler Johnson
Barclay Goodrow - Yanni Gourde - Blake Coleman
Patrick Maroon - Ross Colton - Mathieu Joseph
Victor Hedman - Erik Cernak
Ryan McDonagh - David Savard
Mikhail Sergachev - Luke Schenn
Columbus Blue Jackets Lines
Oliver Bjorkstrand - Jack Roslovic - Cam Atkinson
Stefan Matteau - Alexandre Texier - Patrick Laine
Eric Robinson - Max Domi - Nathan Gerbe
Ryan MacInnis - Josh Dunne - Kole Sherwood
Michael Del Zotto - Seth Jones
Vladislav Gavrikov - Mikko Lehtonen
Dean Kukan - Gavin Bayreuther