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Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Florida Panthers Preview: first chance to close out the series

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Status of Kucherov, Sergachev, and will Spencer Knight start?

NHL: MAY 22 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round - Panthers at Lightning
TAMPA, FL - MAY 22: Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Alex Killorn (17) scores a goal during the NHL Hockey Stanley Cup playoff match between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers on May 22, 2021 at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL.
Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Florida Panthers: ROUND 1, GAME 5
Time: 8:00 PM Eastern Time
Location: BB&T Center
Broadcast/Streaming: CNBC, TVAS2, BSSUN, BSFL
Opponent SBNation Site: Litter Box Cats

The Tampa Bay Lightning have the opportunity to beat the Florida Panthers on the road and close out the first round series against their Florida State rivals. The Lightning are coming off a big 6-2 win at home against the Panthers that ended in unceremonious fashion.

Nikita Kucherov might be out tonight after Anthony Duclair slashed him on the back of the knee, injuring the winger. Duclair didn’t receive supplemental discipline for the action, another in a string of inconsistencies from “Player Safety.” The Lightning have a morning skate today where the status of Kucherov might be revealed.

Also injured in Game 4 was defenseman Mikhail Sergachev after getting hit into the boards from forward Patric Hornqvist. He suffered what is probably an upper body injury, but we weren’t given confirmation on anything by head coach Jon Cooper.

What we do know is that both Kucherov and Sergachev joined the Lightning on their trip to South Florida, thanks to instagram posts from the team. I guess we’ll see how morning skate goes.

On the Panthers side, the big question will be who is in net. Sergei Bobrovsky is the big guy making the big bucks, but he’s been flat-out awful in the playoffs, giving up 10 goals on 63 shots to the Lightning. Chris Driedger, who had a much better season than Bob and whom many around the league eye as a potential starter on their team, was not much better, losing one start and getting pulled in another. He’s given up 8 goals in 62 shots to the Lightning in this series.

While many eyes quickly dart between two lackluster options, some nervously wonder if the rookie, Spencer Knight, should give it a go. It would be a gutsy move by Coach John Quenneville to put in the kid who’s made three whole starts in pro hockey. That said, he might’ve already made his choice.

Knight hasn’t played the Lightning this year, only getting starts against Columbus, Chicago, and Dallas this season, but he already has some flash on his resume:

Tampa Bay Lightning Lines

Forwards
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Steven Stamkos
Ross Colton - Yanni Gourde - Blake Coleman
Pat Maroon - Tyler Johnson
Mathieu Joseph

Defense
Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev - David Savard
Luke Schenn

Goaltenders
Andrei Vasilevskiy
Curtis McElhinney

Florida Panthers Lines

Forwards

Carter Verhaeghe - Aleksander Barkov - Anthony Duclair
Jonathan Huberdeau - Sam Bennett - Owen Tippett
Mason Marchment - Alex Wennberg - Patric Hörnqvist
Ryan Lomberg - Noel Acciari - Frank Vatrano

Defense

MacKenzie Weegar - Anton Stralman
Gustav Forsling - Radko Gudas
Markus Nutivaara - Brandon Montour

Goalies

Sergei Bobrovsky
Chris Driedger
Spencer Knight