Fighting through affliction; Tampa Bay Lightning at Ottawa Senators preview

The Tampa Bay Lightning could take a lesson from the Ottawa Senators in overcoming; the Sens are among the top teams in the league in spite of a load of casualities to key players.

WHERE: Scotiabank Place, Ottawa, Ontario
WHEN: 2 PM EDT | | TICKETS: Check Availability
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable), 970 WFLA (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Silver Seven Senators

In the first of back-to-back games this weekend for the Lightning, they find themselves in Ottawa to face their expansion brethren, the Ottawa Senators in a matinee encounter at Scotiabank Place.

The Senators, who celebrated their 20th anniversary more formally last season than this season have something else in common with the Bolts other than a birth date. Yet, in that similarity lays the greatest difference between the two clubs as well.

Injuries have decimated Ottawa's roster. Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek, Jared Cowen, Marc Methot, David Dziurzynski, and goaltender Craig Anderson are all out or have been sidelined as of recent with various ailments.

Perhaps you read that over and think to take solace in the thought? I mean, the Lightning are without the services of Vincent Lecavalier, Benoit Pouliot, Ryan Malone, and now Anders Lindback. Perhaps this is something to take advantage of, a wounded Ottawa team?

If that thought occurs to you... I'm not sure if I should throw cold water on you or tell you flatly to lay off the drugs.

Ottawa is the #5 seed in the Eastern Conference at this moment, and while they're in third place in their division, their 38 points puts them seventh among all 30 NHL teams.

Some expected Ottawa to digress and fade in the standings when Jason Spezza went down, others figured that was how it'd be after goaltender Craig Anderson got hurt; then there was Erik Karlsson's horrific Achilles heel injury... "The Senators had such a great run," the skeptics concluded. "It's over now though."

Yet they're still standing and striving. Sergei Goncher leads the team with 21 points and Kyle Turris leads the team in goals with eight... It's in net where the Senators have excelled the most - built by Craig Anderson's successes and league-leading GAA / save % (1.49, .952). Ben Bishop has served well in Anderson's steed (2.62 GAA, .921 save %) but it's Robin Lehner who has kept the Senators in contention with his brilliant performance (1.92 GAA, .941 save %).

Lehner is scheduled to start in net for the Senators, while it'll be Mathieu Garon (the now defacto #1 goalie for the Lightning) for the Bolts.

There's been some player movement for the Lightning the past two days worth noting. All four transactions will have some bearing on this game in one way or another. Most directly was the recall of Richard Panik from the Syracuse Crunch. Panik, who had 1 point in nine games his first time around in Tampa, is likely with the team because Benoit Pouliot remains unavailable. Pouliot is with the team on this road trip but has been skating with a no-contact jersey. It was thought that Pouliot might be back for this weekend's back-to-back games with the Sens and Winnipeg, but the Panik recall makes it seem much more doubtful.

Another move, obvious but one that'll have little effect on this game unless things get out of hand, is Cedrick Desjardins serving as backup goalie. Desjardins was recalled by the Lightning on Thursday after Anders Lindback's high ankle sprain diagnosis.

Next comes defense, an addition and a subtraction by way of that addition. You've likely heard by now that the Lightning have signed 22-year-old University of Nebraska-Omaha defenseman Andrej Sustr to a two-year entry level contract. Sustr stands out by... well, it's hard to stand out less than a 6'8" defenseman. Andrej will be carried by the team (and burn off the first year of his two year contract in the process), but it should be stressed that Sustr should be looked at as a project - not an immediate addition or solution on the blueline. I would think he is destined to play in Syracuse next season, but that bridge will be crossed when the team collectively comes to it.

The addition of Sustr, a right handed defenseman, resulted in another right handed defenseman being pushed off the roster (and possibly out of the organization). Was it ironic, coincidental, or fitting that Brian Lee was placed on waivers a day before his team was set to play his former team? Lee was acquired by the Bolts last season from Ottawa in exchange for Matt Gilroy. Brian has been disappointing this season and has lost his starting role to rookie Radko Gudas.

This post will be published before we know if Lee clears waivers or not... But this very much could be the unceremonious end of his stint with the Lightning organization.

I don't have high expectations for this game. The Bolts have had poor showings versus the Northeast division all season. It'd be nice if they rebounded from Wednesday's effort, but I'm not holding my breath.

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