Time: 1:30 PM EST
Location: Amalie Arena
Broadcast Information: TNT, TVAS, SN
Opponent SBNation Site: Litterbox Cats
Not many people expected the Tampa Bay Lightning to take a 2-0 lead in the series before heading to Amalie Arena for the first home games of the second round series. Even after a very sloppy series against the Washington Capitals, the Panthers seemed like a favourite and their record of head-to-head games against the Bolts during this regular season only provided more credence to that line of thought.
The Toronto Maple Leafs players and fans talked a lot about passion in the previous round, but the Bolts took it to another level. The highlights of the Lightning players blocking shots, going to the locker rooms and returning back to the ice just couple of moments later, circulated across the social media during the past couple of days. None other than a two-time Stanley Cup champs know what it takes to be successful in the postseason.
Sometimes it surprises people, but for a very talented and skilled team like Tampa Bay, they’re playing very physically engaged hockey. In fact, the Lightning lead all teams in both blocks and hits this postseason. It's not a surprise though that it’s Ryan McDonagh who has blocked more shots than any other player participating in this playoffs.
As Jon Cooper already announced, Brayden Point won’t be available for today’s game. With 2-0 lead in the series though, the Bolts have a luxury of not having one of their best players on the ice right now and let him to recover from his injury. However, Jon Cooper still wasn’t sure if Point will be available later in the series. Brandon Hagel is questionable for tonight’s game. He took a body maintenance day yesterday, but the team is hopeful he will be ready this afternoon.
Other than this, the Lightning should run the exact lineup, which played in the last two games. It doesn’t stop the coaching staff from moving players to other lines during the game: for example, Nikita Kucherov played the majority of the last game with Alex Killorn and Nick Paul, while Ondrej Palat joined Anthony Cirelli and Steven Stamkos on top line. The overall performance at 5-on-5 had improved a little bit, comparing to Game One, but the Lightning were still mostly outplayed and outshot by the Panthers.
With the Lightning playing back-to-back games for the first time this postseason, it will be interesting to see what strategy they will choose in the net. During two previous Stanley Cup campaigns Andrei Vasilevskiy played every game, including playing in back-to-back games against the Dallas Stars in Stanley Cup Final in 2020. If the Lightning win this afternoon though, it is possible that they will give Vasilevskiy a day-off tomorrow.
Tampa Bay Lightning Potential Lines
Steven Stamkos - Anthony Cirelli - Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej Palat - Nick Paul - Alex Killorn
Brandon Hagel - Ross Colton - Corey Perry
Patrick Maroon - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare
Victor Hedman - Erik Cernak
Ryan McDonagh - Zach Bogosian
Mikhail Sergachev - Cal Foote
Florida Panthers Potential Lines
Carter Verhaeghe - Aleksander Barkov - Claude Giroux
Jonathan Huberdeau - Sam Bennett - Anthony Duclair
Noel Acciari - Anton Lundell - Sam Reinhart
Ryan Lomberg - Eetu Luostarinen - Patric Hornqvist
Ben Chiarot - Aaron Ekblad
Gus Forsling - MacKenzie Weegar
Brandon Montour - Radko Gudas