Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: Amalie Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: ESPN+, Hulu
Opponent SBNation Site: Canes Country
With their 11-games-in-11-cities oddessy behind them, the Tampa Bay Lightning will settle in for some home cooking and friendly crowds over the next month. They are at home for four games in a row and kick things off with another meeting against the Carolina Hurricanes, a team they just lost to a week ago.
After the game, Nikita Kucherov touched off a minor skirmish as he shoved his stick in the general direction of Sebastian Aho’s face. Kucherov was frustrated all game and was visibly incensed after an interference call following a collision between the two all but ended the Lightning’s chances at a comeback.
The two teams have never been overly fond of each other going back to their old Southeast Division days and the Lightning eliminating the ‘Canes in five games in their playoff match-up did nothing to ease the tensions. Add agitator Max Domi (who wasn’t suited up for his new team last week) and it should make for a fun, entertaining game.
Could it be an Eastern Conference Finals preview? Sure, why not? There is a lot of regular season left to be played, but with Carolina running the throne in the Metropolitan and the Lightning always a threat in Atlantic it’s not without reason that these two teams could be the last two standing in the East later this spring.
Carolina is a team build to give the Lightning fits. They are fast and play aggressive hockey, always willing to turn it up ice once they get the puck in their own zone. They have the speed to press the Lightning defenders and cause them to back off the blue line, which opens up the offensive zone to move the puck around.
Even at full strength, the Lightning aren’t blessed with speed at the blueline and should they get caught deep in the Carolina zone, it’ll be hard for them to track back and break up odd-man rushes. Tampa Bay’s forwards will have to be extra diligent in covering for their defensive friends who choose to pinch in low and attack the net.
One positive factor for the Lightning will be that they are catching Carolina on the backend of a back-to-back. The Hurricanes were in DC last night where they dispatched the Capitals, 6-1. Lightning-killer Martin Necas had two goals and an assist while Frederik Andersen stopped 25 shots. That could mean that Antti Raanta gets the nod in net against Tampa Bay tonight.
For the Lightning it will be an excellent test to see if the improved play they produced at the end of the game against the Detroit Red Wings and for most of the afternoon against the New York Islanders was for real or just a momentary blip against some non-playoff teams.
Ryan McDonagh remains out with his upper-body injury so expect Zach Bogosian to continue to fill in for him on the left-side of the ice with Cal Foote back in the line-up as his partner. The duo was together for 12:13 of 5v5 time against the Islanders and had a pretty good game for a fourth-pairing. They weren’t on the ice for any goals, defended two high-danger chances and helped keep New York to 0.33 xGA. You really can’t ask much more from them as a pairing.
Since neither one of them are the fleetest of skaters, expect Coach Cooper to be wary of when he puts them out on the ice to make sure they aren’t thrown into too many unfavorable match-ups.
Hopefully, the Lightning continue to build on the success they had at the end of the weekend and dictate the tempo to the game as opposed to reacting to the play of their opponents, an annoying trend that they developed for much of their road trip. Settle in for what should be an entertaining game.
Tampa Bay Lightning Projected Lines
Steven Stamkos - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej Palat - Anthony Cirelli - Alex Killorn
Brandon Hagel - Nick Paul - Ross Colton
Patrick Maroon - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Corey Perry
Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta
Mikhail Sergachev - Erik Cernak
Zach Bogosian - Cal Foote
(Based on last game)
Carolina Hurricanes Projected Lines
Teuvo Teravainen - Sebastian Aho - Seth Jarvis
Andrei Svechnikov - Vincent Trocheck - Martin Necas
Nino Niederreiter - Jordan Staal - Jesper Fast
Max Domi - Jesperi Kotkaniemi - Derek Stephan
Jacob Slavin - Tony DeAngelo
Brady Skjei - Brett Pesce
Ian Cole - Ethan Bear