Tampa Bay Lightning Look To Rebound Against Columbus Blue Jackets

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Tampa Bay Lightning look to make a rebound as they head into the Nationwide Arena tonight to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets in their second meeting of the season.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have experienced a rough couple of days, but it looks as if things may very well be turning around for the Bolts. Tonight, the Lightning will need to shake off their last two consecutive losses and prepare to put their best skate forward against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

This is the second time these two teams will meet in the center of the ice in the span of the last four days. Unfortunately, things didn’t go so well for the Lightning in their first meeting. In fact, it was the Columbus Blue Jackets who handed the Bolts the first loss in their current skid.

While many Lightning fans would like to pin sole responsibility for the team’s recent losses on the shoulders of Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop, there are many more aspects of the game that need to improve if the Bolts are going to get back on top. One of the most important is the defense.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning /

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning were hoping to get defenseman Anton Stralman back prior to tonight’s encounter. Unfortunately, according to Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, it doesn’t seem as if that is in the cards for the Lightning tonight.

Along with defenseman Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman is one of the most vital parts of the Bolts blueline. Stralman’s loss has reverberated through the Lightning’s defense. Tonight’s game will be the ninth consecutive game Anton Stralman has missed due to his Upper-Body Injury.

While Lightning fans and Blue Jackets fans alike sit back and wait for the action to get started tonight, let’s take a closer look at the upcoming action tonight from the Nationwide Arena in Columbus.

Tampa Bay Lightning

As some Lightning fans may know by now, the Tampa Bay Lightning have re-assigned right wing Erik Condra to the Syracuse Crunch. While the team didn’t release any information on a player’s return at the time, it has come to our attention courtesy of Joe Smith that Lightning forward J.T. Brown is due back tonight.

J.T. Brown has been sidelined since November 21st as the Tampa Bay Lightning took on the Nashville Predators. As usual, the Lightning hasn’t been very specific as to the nature of Brown’s injury; however, it seems as if he was banged up a bit. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise considering how the game ended.

Tonight, when the Lightning take the ice, it will be Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy between the pipes for the Bolts. Vasilevskiy has been experiencing a rather amazing start to the season. After posting two shutouts in a row, Vasy would continue on to backstop the Bolts to a 4-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.

Andrei Vasilevskiy has played in a total of eight games so far this season. In that amount of time, Vasy has maintained a 6-1-0-1 record with a Goals Against Average of 1.50 and a Save Percentage of .951. has played in a total of eight games so far this season. In that amount of time, Vasy has maintained a 6-1-0-1 record with a Goals Against Average of 1.50 and a Save Percentage of .951.

The key to a Lightning victory tonight is simple. The Lightning needs to come out of the tunnel strong and consistently dictate the pace of the game. The Bolts will need to be strong on the blueline and resist the overwhelming urge to overpass the puck. If they can accomplish these seemingly simple tasks, the Bolts will find themselves back on the right track in no time at all.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Much like the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Columbus Blue Jackets will be in search of a little redemption tonight in front of their hometown crowd. After going on a four-game winning streak, the Blue Jackets were cut down by both the Colorado Avalanche and the Calgary Flames.

Then, one night after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3 at the Amalie Arena, the Blue Jackets would suffer defeat at the hands of the Florida Panthers in a 2-1 shootout loss. Before heading back out on the road on Thursday night, the Blue Jackets will be looking to put on a show in front of their hometown fans.

The Lightning will once again be facing off with Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Bobrovsky has been similarly strong this season. In the 18 games he’s played with the Blue Jackets this season, Bobrovsky has maintained a 11-5-0-2 record with a Goals Against Average of 2.15 and a Save Percentage of .929.

The Blue Jackets have mastered the art of playing a consistent 60 minutes of hockey. Since making his way to Columbus, Blue Jackets Head Coach John Tortorella has worked magic on the team. Many Lightning fans will remember Tortorella as the Head Coach that took the Lightning to their first-ever Stanley Cup Championship.

The Fact of the Matter

The fact of the matter here is simple. The Tampa Bay Lightning are going to have to be stronger on the forecheck, more consistent when it comes to shots on goal, stronger on the blueline, and resist the urge to overpass the puck. Hesitation will be the death of their game and must be avoided at all costs.

The Lightning have the pieces necessary to get the job done. The only thing left for them to do is put one skate in front of the other, stick to their system, and do what they do best…score goals and win games.

Next: Nikita Kucherov: From Zero to Hero

The action is set to kick off at 7:00 p.m. tonight from the Nationwide Arena in Columbus. As always, you can catch all the action on Fox Sports Sun. Rather listen to all the action? You can tune into 970WFLA here in Tampa Bay or at TBL Power Play on iHeartRadio. Need the action on the go? Check out the Fox Sports Go app. No matter which method fans choose, the one thing they won’t want is to miss a moment of the action.

Projected Lines (Subject to Change)

Tampa Bay Lightning

Ondrej PalatTyler Johnson – Nikita Kucherov

Brayden PointValtteri FilppulaRyan Callahan

Jonathan DrouinCedric PaquetteAlex Killorn

J.T. BrownVladislav NamestnikovBrian Boyle

Victor HedmanAndrej Sustr

Nikita NesterovBraydon Coburn

Jason GarrisonSlater Koekkoek

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Ben Bishop

Columbus Blue Jackets

Brandon SaadAlexander WennbergNick Foligno

Boone JennerBrandon DubinskyCam Atkinson

Scott HartnellWilliam KarlssonJosh Anderson

Markus HannikainenLukas SedlakSam Gagner

Zach WerenskiSeth Jones

Jack JohnsonDavid Savard

Ryan MurrayMarkus Nutivaara

Sergei Bobrovsky

Curtis McElhinney