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Tampa Bay Lightning at Montreal Canadiens Preview and Game Day Thread: A potential Cup clinching game

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The Lightning are focused to close the series tonight

2021 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Three Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Montreal Canadiens: ROUND 4, GAME 4

Time: 8:00 PM Eastern

Location: Bell Centre

Broadcast/Streaming: NBC, CBC, TVAS, SN, Peacock

Opponent SB Nation Site: HabsEyesOnThePrize

Less than one year since clinching the Stanley Cup in a bubble in Edmonton, the Tampa Bay Lightning are set to do it again in another Canadian city. The Lightning are currently leading the final series against the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 and tonight have a chance to become the first team since the 1998 Detroit Red Wings to sweep their opponent in the Stanley Cup Final.

The Canadiens’ coaching staff and players obviously don’t agree with that, preparing for a big fight tonight. Interim head coach Dominique Ducharme compared the current situation with their first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, which the Habs survived after being down 1-3 in the series. Defenseman Jeff Petry said that they not only don’t want to see the Lightning players raising the Stanley Cup at the Bell Centre, but don’t want to see the Lightning win the Cup at all.

On Sunday, the Canadiens spent the whole practice devoted to their power play, which is a very unusual thing. So far in the series, the Canadiens scored just one power goal, while having six total opportunities. Per Ducharme, he feels that the team is very prepared at 5-on-5 and needs to focus on their special units to make most out of them tonight. The Canadiens also made some minor changes on their power play unit – Jeff Petry replaces Eric Gustafsson on the top unit, while Joel Armia took Jesperi Kotkaniemi spot on the second unit. Eric Gustafsson’s absence on the top unit might also indicates that he could be benched in favour of Russian rookie Alexander Romanov.

As for the Lightning, they had an optional practice on Sunday morning. Alex Killorn didn’t participate, but head coach Jon Cooper still didn’t rule out his return, saying that he will be sure to answer today.

There was some talks among Lightning fans that they should drop tonight’s game to have an opportunity win the Stanley Cup at home. Even Tampa’s mayor Jane Castor publicly mentioned that in her interview on Sunday. Jon Cooper denied that such thought will even sneak in their locker room, assuring that the team is focused on closing things out tonight [The Athletic]

No, that will never sneak into our locker room,” Cooper said. “We dealt with that last year, in a different way. There’s a mindset that’s developed with our players. We had a chance to knock out the Islanders last year and didn’t do it. We had a chance to knock out Dallas last year and we didn’t do it. It’s a learning process to go through that. By no means does that guarantee any results with what’s going to happen in tomorrow’s game, but I know our mindset is different going into these games, on these close-out games.

Steven Stamkos agreed with his head coach, also mentioning a tropical storm, which is expected to hit Tampa Bay area between Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning – a day before a potential Game Five, which is scheduled for Wednesday at 8 p.m. [NHL.com]

“It’s usually the teams that throughout a run that can kind of get rid of those distractions and the teams that aren’t looking beyond the next game (that have success),” Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos said. “I think for us, we’ve been in this position before. We understand the magnitude of the game and we understand that we really are, as much as it’s cliché to say, we’re focused on the start of next game. All those other things work themselves out. You never know what’s going to happen in the course of a game or a series. We’re focused on our start next game. We want to come out extremely hard. We realize, both teams understand the situation that they’re in. We’re excited for the challenge. All those things will take care of itself. A couple wrinkles with the situation that we’re in here in Canada and the storm back home — we want to make sure everyone’s safe — but at the same time this group is focused on the game.”

Tampa Bay Lightning Lines and Pairings

Forwards

Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

Mathieu Joseph - Anthony Cirelli - Steven Stamkos

Barclay Goodrow - Yanni Gourde - Blake Coleman

Pat Maroon - Tyler Johnson - Ross Colton

Defense

Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta

Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak

Mikhail Sergachev - David Savard

Goalies

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Curtis McElhinney

Montreal Canadiens Lines and Pairings

Forwards

Artturi Lehkonen - Phillip Danault - Brendan Gallagher

Tyler Toffoli - Nick Suzuki - Cole Caufield

Paul Byron - Jake Evans- Josh Anderson

Joel Armia - Eric Staal - Corey Perry

Defense

Ben Chiarot - Shea Weber

Joel Edmundson - Jeff Petry

Alexander Romanov - Brett Kulak

Goalies

Carey Price

Jake Allen

Reports this morning are that Jake Evans may slide into the line-up in Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s spot.

9:30 AM update - looks like Montreal is going with an all new pairing on defense as Gustafsson and Merrill are out and Romanov and Kulak are in.