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Tampa Bay Lightning at Chicago Blackhawks Preview and Game Day Thread

The start of the longest road trip of the season

Tampa Bay Lightning v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning at Chicago Blackhawks at : Game 55

Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: United Center

Broadcast/Streaming: NHLN, SN360, SNW, SNP, NBCSCH

Opponent SBNation Site: Second City Hockey

The Tampa Bay Lightning are preparing for their longest stretch of road games in the 2021-22 regular season. With a quick stop at Amalie Arena on March 19, the Lightning will play 10 out of 11 next games on the road, including two back-to-backs and games against teams, which still have hypothetical chances to make postseason this year.

In the last game against the Detroit Red Wings, Jon Cooper and his coaching staff managed to respond to their loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins the night before. Boris Katchouk returned to the line-up after being a healthy scratch during the previous month and replaced Taylor Raddysh on the fourth line. Jon Cooper also moved Anthony Cirelli back to the second line, swapping him with Mathieu Joseph, who didn’t have a strong performance against the Pens. Reuniting Katchouk and Joseph on the line with Ross Colton proved to be a right decision, as the line was pretty efficient against the young and skilled Detroit’s offence, recording 64.29 CF% — the most on the Lightning’s line-up on that night.

The significant part in this victory, however, was the Lightning’s power play. For just the second time this season the Bolts scored three power play goals in a single game (interestingly the first time also happened in the game against Detroit). The Lightning’s power play will also be important in tonight’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks, as their penalty kill has been one of the team’s weaknesses and ranks in the bottom-third in the whole league.

Speaking of the Blackhawks, despite some loud statements before the start of the season, Chicago failed right from the start, losing first nine games. Currently they’re seventh in the Central Division and most likely miss the playoffs for the second year in a row. The organization have gone through a lot of management changes, including naming Derek King as their new interim head coach, who replaced Jeremy Colliton after his disastrous start of the season.

Patrick Kane leads the team in points with 56 (17+39) in 52 games, while Alex DeBrincat leads them in goals with 31 of them in 56 games, which also puts him in top-10 in the league in that category. Marc-André Fleury, who was expected to become one of the leaders of the team and improve the situation in the net, didn’t become the player the Blackhawks hoped for, recording a pretty mediocre .911 SV% and -3.03 GSAx at 5v5 in 40 games. Reportedly he could be one of the candidates for potential trades at the upcoming trade deadline, as well as Dominik Kubalik, whose trade value has dropped significantly during this season. The Czech forward with 21 (11+10) points in 56 games has the weakest season in his NHL career so far.

This also will be the first game for Tyler Johnson against his former team. The 31-year-old forward missed the start of the season due to neck surgery, returning in the middle of February. In 10 games with the Blackhawks he scored one goal and two assist, playing mostly on the second line with DeBrincat and Toews. The Blackhawks will play at Amalie Arena early in April and Johnson surely will be greeted with a warm welcome by the fans he played for nine straight seasons.

Tampa Bay Lightning Projected Lines

Forwards

Ondrej Palat — Brayden Point — Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn — Steven Stamkos — Anthony Cirelli

Pat Maroon — Pierre-Edouard Bellemare — Corey Perry

Boris Katchouk — Ross Colton — Mathieu Joseph

Defense

Victor Hedman — Jan Rutta

Ryan McDonagh — Erik Cernak

Mikhail Sergachev — Cal Foote

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Brian Elliott

Chicago Blackhawks Projected Lines

Forwards

Dominik Kubalik — Dylan Strome — Patrick Kane

Alex DeBrincat — Jonathan Toews — Tyler Johnson

Brandon Hagel — Kirby Dach — MacKenzie Entwistle

Philipp Kurashev — Ryan Carpenter — Sam Lafferty

Defense

Caleb Jones — Connor Murphy

Calvin de Haan — Seth Jones

Riley Stillman — Jake McCabe

Goaltenders

Kevin Lankinen

Marc-Andre Fleury