The Tampa Bay Lightning will have to dig deep and fight for every inch in tonight’s encounter with the Winnipeg Jets if the Bolts want to get back on track.
It almost goes without saying that it’s been a rough week or so for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Starting with defenseman Anton Stralman, the Tampa Bay Lightning has ritualistically been picked off one by one by what seems like the flu virus. As the Tampa Bay Lightning open the doors to the Amalie Arena tonight to take on Dustin Byfuglien and the Winnipeg Jets, it seems the Lightning may be down another player thanks to the flu.
The Tampa Bay Lightning reported earlier today on their official website there is a possibility the Lightning will take the ice without the assistance of another one of the Lightning’s key offensive players, Ondrej Palat. As the Lightning take on the Jets tonight, they will also be without the assistance of Vladislav Namestnikov, who is still pretty shaken up after his collision with St. Louis Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson on Sunday night.
As most of you know by now, there is a rather large piece of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s defensive core sitting on the sidelines right now. Jason Garrison is expected to miss at least 3-5 weeks stemming from a lower body injury Garrison suffered on February 8th in an awkward collision with Ottawa Senators right wing Bobby Ryan.
The amount of injuries/illnesses is only a small portion of the Lightning’s struggles as of late. The Tampa Bay Lightning has experienced more than a few defensive miscues over the course of the last week. This has led the Lightning to drop their last two games in a row at home after winning their last nine home games in a row.
If the Tampa Bay Lightning want to get back on track and start making up for some of the points they have lost, they are going to have to dig deep tonight and keep their minds focused not on the drama and issues surrounding the team right now, but the more important task at hand; winning games and earning points.
Right now, the Winnipeg Jets has five players who have crossed the thirty point threshold this season. Leading the way for the Jets is right wing Blake Wheeler. Wheeler has already scored 16 goals and 37 assists for a total of 53 points. Wheeler is one of those players the Lightning defense is going to need to shut down early, not for his goal scoring ability, but for his innate ability to make plays happen.
Another Jets player the Tampa Bay Lightning are going to need to be mindful of tonight is Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien. Byfuglien not only has the ability to put the puck on the net, but he is also an incredibly hard hitter with a big body who is more than capable of breaking up plays and getting in between his opponent and the back of the net.
According to Tampa Bay Lightning Beat Writer Bryan Burns, Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper (who is also dealing with a case of the flu) has confirmed that it will be goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy in net tonight for the Lightning. The young Russian netminder has experienced his fair share of issues this season but has come through for the Lightning quite a bit this season. Vasilevskiy has won three of his last four games between the pipes.
After tonight’s battle with the Winnipeg Jets, the Tampa Bay Lightning will head out on the road for another back-to-back weekend series. The weekend action will kick off at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh against captain Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
It is going to be a long weekend ahead, but the Lightning’s battle begins tonight at the Amalie Arena with another East vs. West showdown with the Winnipeg Jets. The last time these two teams met in the center of the ice, the Tampa Bay Lightning were able to edge out the Winnipeg Jets in overtime. Will history repeat itself tonight? We’ll have to watch and find out.
The puck is scheduled to drop at 7:30 p.m. Make sure to stay connected right here to Bolts By The Bay as we bring you all the latest Tampa Bay Lightning, news, updates, commentary, and more.