Defense works through injuries; Tampa Bay Lightning versus Ottawa Senators preview

While the injury bug has had a long stay with the Tampa Bay Lightning this season, it hasn't led to a huge turnover of defensemen on the roster.

Where:  Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
When: 7:30 PM EST | Tickets: Check availability
Media: Sun Sports (cable) | 970 AM WFLA (radio)
Opponent Coverage: Silver Sevens

One thing I think we, as Lightning fans, have gotten used to is seeing the 11-forward, 7-defenseman roster split employed by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Having the Bolts rolling three forward lines with a third makeshift line is troubling to some, but others got used to seeing this roster split under Guy Boucher.

Another reason we've gotten used to seeing that split is because of the habit of the Tampa Bay defense sustaining an injury of some sorts during game play. Rookie Radko Gudas has taken some knocks and missed games, Keith Aulie has missed most of the season with different ailments, Mark Barberio has missed games (but inconsistent starts early on made it seem like no big issue), Eric Brewer has missed games, Sami Salo has made his annual rite of passage and missed games, and Victor Hedman - coming into his own this season - has taken more than his fair share of bumps and bruises and missed 7 games this season. (Author note: Mattias Ohlund hasn't played a game this season and is all but retired, while Brian Lee has also not played a game this season due to his own knee injury; neither were counted when compiling this list.)

Of all the Lightning defensemen currently on the roster, only Matt Carle has played all 50 games this season. While that's troubling, defensivemen dropping with injuries for any amount of time, it's also rather comforting to know that Tampa Bay has used only 10 defensemen all season (Aulie, Barberio, Brewer, Jean-Philippe Cote, Carle, Gudas, Dmitry Korobov, Salo, Sustr, and Matt Taormina). Despite hurt, the blueliners have made it back to the lineup and contributed as expected. You don't want to see injuries at all, but it's vastly prefereable hat there is a quick recovery to maladies than lingering issues and vast amounts of missed time.

So what is the deal with Victor Hedman, who went down during Saturday's matinee against the San Jose Sharks? Let's let Erik Erlensson answers that question (as well as the goalie situation):

Erlendsson also reported that Keith Aulie and B.J. Crombeen will both be playing tonight, while Richard Panik, Tom Pyatt and J.P. Cote will watch this one from the press box.

The Ottawa Senators come into this contest 10 points behind the Lightning in the Flortheast Division standings, having posted a 22-19-9 record in 50 games played. They've resurgent in the standings, going 7-1-2 in their past 10 games and could move into 4th in the division at any moment as Detroit seems to be fading in the standings (54 points, 4-5-1 in their past 10). They're not as resurgent as Toronto, however, who is tied for 3rd in the division and who the Lightning have yet to play this season. We'll deal with that story in due time, but first things first: Ottawa.

Erik karlsson leads the Senators with 47 points (11 goals, 36 assists); he'll be leading the charge not only for the Sens but Team Sweden in Sochi next month. It's Bobby Ryan who is currently the top forward on the roster with 37 points to his name (19 goals and 19 assists). Ryan was snubbed a roster spot by USA Hockey for the 2014 Winter Olympics... which you already know about because, hey, who hasn't heard about it by now; either by way of the snub itself or Brian Burke making an ass of himself while defending USA Hockey's decision to leave Ryan off the roster. Ryan has every reason o be motivated right now.

Speaking of motivation, our old friend Cory Conacher continues to have a quiet season or the Senators - in 48 games played, he's 9th on the team with 15 points (4 goals, 11 assists). Unless he's entirely caged by the system he has to play in, perhaps we'll see Cory make a showing tonight to remind his old brothers (the Tampacuse core of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, Radko Gudas and Mark Barberio) that he still has the touch.

While Bishop starts for the Lightning, it's Craig Anderson in goal for the Senators. Anderson's injury last season had paved the way for Robin Lehner to get playing time for the Senators which ended up pushing out Bishop from Ottawa as the organization decided to bank on the tandem of Anderson and Lehner going forward. Yet, goaltending is a part of Ottawa's problem snow. While they're getting offense form Karlsson, Ryan, Kyle Turris and Clarke MacArthur, Anderson's goaltending hasn't been as stellar as in years past: A .905 save percentage, a 3.09 GAA. Regardless of that, the Senators track record with him in net has been solid enough, though: 16-10-6.

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