Location: Nationwide Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: ESPN+, BSSUN, BSOH
Opponent SBNation Site: Jackets Cannon
The Tampa Bay Lightning are on a bit of a skid as the new year gets underway. They’ve gone three games without a win and, in two of the games, have looked rather lackluster defensively. The stuttered schedule and players missing due to injury or COVID protocols could explain away some of the struggles, but this organization didn’t get to the top of the mountain (twice) by relying on excuses to explain away poor play.
Now, that excuse is all but removed as all of the players that were on COVID protocols have been released from their quarantines. They are still missing Zach Bogosian for at least one more game as he deals with a lower-body injury, but the rest of the line-up should be good to go. After getting swept by the New York Rangers over the weekend, they should also have a tiny bit of a chip on their shoulder as they head into their match-up with the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight.
Andrei Vasilevskiy will likely be in net looking to rebound from a so-so game against the Rangers. Actually, you know what? That’s not entirely true. He had a so-so first period, but was the goalie we all know and love after the first 20 minutes. Vasy is usually pretty good in games following a loss as well. After his last three losses he’s posted a 2-0-1 record and allowed just 4 goals in those three games.
The defense should resemble it’s pre-holiday self as well with Erik Cernak and Cal Foote back in the line-up after a few games of shuffling folks around on the blueline. The same goes for the forwards now that Taylor Raddysh is out of protocols as well. We’ll see if they can find a way to start putting the puck back into the net now that everyone is back on the ice.
Columbus is coming off a loss in which they were up 4-0 to the Carolina Hurricanes yet managed to lose 7-4. With a 4-2 lead heading into the third period they pretty much sat back and watched as Carolina scored 5 times in the final frame, with four of those goals coming in less than four minutes of game action.
As you can guess, goaltending is a bit of an issue for the Blue Jackets. Joonas Korpisalo has been in COVID protocol since the 26th of December and Elvis Merzlikins AND Daniil Tarasov were banged up in Saturday’s game. So Cam Johnson or J.F. Berube could be getting the start in net for Columbus. Probably not ideal when facing a slightly annoyed Tampa Bay Lightning team. There is a chance that Korpisalo officially clears protocol before the game, but as we saw with Vasilevskiy on Sunday, there could be some rust following the layoff.
Offense hasn’t really been a problem for the Blue Jackets as they’ve averaged 3.20 goals per game, a slightly higher average than the Lightning on the season and good for 11th in the league. On defense, they’ve had some issues as they’ve allowed 3.40 goals per game and are only killing penalties at a 78% success rate. Not helping the issue is that one of their top defenseman, Zach Werenski, tested positive on Monday and may enter protocol.
Hopefully, the Lightning can exploit some of the issues the Blue Jackets have had recently and get back on the winning track.
Tampa Bay Lightning Projected Lines
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Anthony Cirelli
Alex Killorn - Steven Stamkos - Taylor Raddysh
Pat Maroon - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Corey Perry
Boris Katchouk - Ross Colton - Mathieu Joseph
Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev - Cal Foote
Columbus Blue Jackets Projected Lines
Patrik Laine - Cole Sillinger - Jakub Voracek
Alex Texier - Boone Jenner - Oliver Bjorkstrand
Gustav Nyquist - Sean Kuraly - Max Domi
Yegor Chinakhov - Jack Roslovic - Emil Bemstrom
Andrew Peeke -Jake Bean
Vladislav Gavrikov -Adam Boqvist
Scott Harrington -Gabriel Carlsson