Tampa Bay Lightning at Tampa Bay Lightning : Game 76
Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: Amalie Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: BSSUN, BSDETX
Opponent SB Nation Site: Winging it in Motown
With two wins in a row and a rhythm to the offense that they haven’t shown in awhile, the Lightning only have to take out the Detroit Red Wings (who were steamrolled by the Florida Panthers in their latest outing) before a high-octane rematch with the Toronto Maple Leafs. In other words, this game has all of the makings of your classic trap game for the Lightning.
They can’t take the Red Wings for granted despite the fact that Detroit is out of the playoff race and is planning for next year. They have struggled over their last ten games, going 3-5-2, while allowing 38 goals in those ten games (one of which they had a shutout). That’s not great, yet, two of their wins are against Carolina (3-0) and Boston (5-3). So they are having a little fun in the role of playoff spoiler.
Unfortunately for the Red Wings, they are going to be without their captain as it was announced yesterday that Dylan Larkin, in the midst of a career year, underwent core surgery. It’s a procedure that Lightning fans are all too familiar with. The expected recovery time for Larkin is 8-10 weeks which knocks him out for the rest of the season. The good news is that he should have the bulk of the offseason to recover.
His absence leaves an offensive void for Detroit. In 71 games this year he put up 69 points (31 goals, 38 assists) and averaged about 19:39 TOI a game. He was tied with Tyler Bertuzzi for the lead in power play goals with six for a team that is struggling at a 16.9% conversion rate.
If nothing else, his absence should lead to more playing time for some of Detroit’s younger players and give Mr. Yzerman and Jeff Blashill (assuming he survives the summer) a chance to evaluate who should be part of the organization next season. Chase Pearson was called up to take the open roster spot.
Along with Bertuzzi (56 points), rookies Moritz Sieder (41 assists) and Lucas Raymond (22 goals) will be looking to pick up the slack. It’s likely that Pius Suter (14 goals, 19 assists) will slide into Larkin’s spot between Bertuzzi and Raymond or Blashill could completely blow up the lines. The Red Wings did not practice on Monday so it won’t be until the morning skate or maybe even the pregame warm-ups that he’ll reveal his strategy.
The Lightning shouldn’t worry too much about what the Red Wings are doing as they should be focusing on continuing the solid play they had in the third period against Winnipeg. If they play like that over 60 minutes, they’re not losing to anybody. Once again it was strong play in their own zone that helped drive their offensive success,
“When we can play defense fast and get the puck retrievals quick, you still have some energy to go in the offensive zone and make some plays,” [Steven] Stamkos said. “And I felt like that was probably a big factor for us in the third in doing that.”
Nick Paul has played his way onto the top line with Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov, a development that few probably saw coming when the Lightning picked him up at the deadline. It seems to be a good fit as he has the willingness to head into the dirty areas to retrieve pucks along with the skills necessary to finish off plays. Why not ride the hot hand while you can?
Moving off of the top line should allow Ondrej Palat to relax a bit and find his game. He did have an assist in the last game skating on the line with Steven Stamkos and Ross Colton. The trio posted a positive CF% (72.73%) and put together five scoring chances while only allowing one against. Not too shabby.
The next two weeks will likely see quite a bit of line shuffling as Coach Cooper tries to find the right combination heading into the playoffs. It might also be another Moose start tonight, we’ll find that out after the morning skate.
Tampa Bay Lightning Potential Lines
Nick Paul - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej Palat - Steven Stamkos - Ross Colton
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Brandon Hagel
Patrick Maroon - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Corey Perry
Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev - Cal Foote/Zach Bogosian
Detroit Red Wings Potential Lines
Tyler Bertuzzi - Pius Suter - Lucas Raymond
Jakub Vrana - Michael Rasumssen - Filip Zadina
Adam Erne - Mitchell Stephens- Sam Gagner
Riley Barber - Chase Pearson (?) - Joe Veleno
Dan Dekeyser - Moritz Seider
Marc Staal - Filip Hronek
Jake Walman - Gustav Lindstrom