Despite Brett Connolly being called up from the Syracuse Crunch, Lightning coach Jon Cooper said injured captain Martin St. Louis remains a game-time decision when Tampa Bay hosts the Minnesota Wild tonight. St. Louis suffered an injured foot in Tuesday’s win over the Los Angeles Kings.
St. Louis currently leads the Lightning in scoring with 10 points in six games, and he carries an impressive +6 rating. Against the Kings, he scored two goals and picked up an assist in what might have been his best performance of the young season.
Cooper was relatively unconcerned about the prospect of playing without St. Louis tonight. “Marty will be the first one to tell you that it’s not about one person,” he told the media after this morning’s skate. “You have to be ready at any moment to jump into anyone else’s spot. Obviously it wouldn’t be a seamless transition because of what he brings to our team, but we have enough depth that we should be able to survive.”
With or without their captain, the Lightning will try to make it two in a row tonight against the Wild. Tonight’s game marks the fourth in a seven-game home-stand, a home-stand in which the Bolts have put up a 2-1 record to this point.
The Minnesota Wild, who will be playing their third game in four nights, are coming off a frustrating loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night. The Wild outshot the Leafs 37-14 but still managed to lose the game 4-1. It was their first loss after a three-game winning streak that included wins over the Winnepeg Jets, the Dallas Stars, and the hapless Buffalo Sabres.
Tonight, the Wild will be starting Josh Harding against the Lightning. Harding was brought into the Toronto game after Darcy Kuemper had already given up the four goals. With Minnesota’s regular starter, Niklas Backstrom, down with a knee injury, Harding has performed admirably under pressure. Coming into tonight’s game he’s posting a dazzling 0.94 GAA in five appearances to go along with a .952 save percentage. Impressive to say the least.
St. Louis’s presence might be particularly missed because the Wild are not an easy team to generate offense against. In seven games this season, they have given up 30 shots just one time, against the Anaheim Ducks.
For the Lightning, Ben Bishop is expected to start his second straight game after missing time with a lower body injury. Bishop’s performances have ranged from solid to stellar so far this season, and he already appears to have ended any goaltending controversy there might have been. Bishop’s coming into tonight with a 1.74 GAA and a .939 save percentage.
St. Louis sat out this morning’s skate, and Brett Connolly lined up in his place alongside Steven Stamkos and Ryan Malone. Whether or not that means Cooper plans to play Connolly on the top line is anyone’s guess.
Connolly, if he plays, will be playing just his sixth game of the calendar year. He was briefly recalled from Syracuse last season and scored one goal in five games. The Lightning, however, are hoping Connolly can regain his preseason form which saw him tie for the team-lead in goals with four. In 71 games last season with the Crunch, Connolly scored 31 goals and 63 points, and appeared to get stronger as the season went along.
The Lightning are scheduled to rematch both the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks following tonight’s game. But the Lightning are just 1-5-1 in their last seven meetings with the Wild, so tonight’s points might be as tough to come by as any.
Game-time is 7:30 p.m. EST. Bolts by the Bay will have live in-game commentary.