Point Returns for Shorthanded Game with Montreal

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Rather than a traditional game preview, this is more of a status report ahead of tonight’s Lightning game against the Montreal Canadiens. This is the first meeting between the two clubs in Tampa since the Lightning hoisted the Stanley Cup on home ice in July. Both teams will look significantly different tonight than they did last season.

In Tampa Bay’s last game before the Christmas break, Jon Cooper was the only member of the Lightning to enter the COVID protocol all season. He missed the last game against Vegas and will miss tonight’s game as well as Derek LaLonde will resume duties behind the Lightning bench.

Since the team has returned to practice on Sunday; Anthony Cirelli, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Mikhail Sergachev, Andrej Sustr, Andrei Vasilevksiy, Brian Elliot and assistant coach Rob Zettler have all entered the NHL’s COVID protocol. All of them will be unavailable for tonight’s game.

With Vasilevksiy and Elliot both in protocol, the Lightning did not have a healthy goaltender on the roster. Yesterday, they announced the recalls of two goaltenders from AHL Syracuse. Maxime Lagace and Hugo Alnefelt were recalled and will serve as the two goaltenders dressing for tonight’s game.

After today’s morning skate we learned that Lagace will be making the start in the Lightning net. This will be Lacace’s first regular season appearance for the Lightning and his first in the NHL since last May, a shutout victory over the Buffalo Sabres while playing with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Lagace appeared in just one game last season and has appeared in 18 career NHL games with Pittsburgh and the Vegas Golden Knights. Lagace has appeared in seven games this season with the Syracuse Crunch. He is 3-3 with a 3.86 GAA and .861 sv% this year in the NHL.

Some positive news for Tampa Bay is that they will be getting Brayden Point back in the lineup after missing the previous 14 games with an upper body injury. Point’s return should provide a big boost to the Lightning, especially with several forwards expected to be out of the lineup. A big plus in Point’s return will be his presence on the powerplay, which has struggled in his absence. With Cirelli and Bellemare out of the lineup, we should expect Point and Boris Katchouk to slide into those holes in the forward group.

With Sergachev out of the lineup, the Lightning made a series of defenseman callups including Sean Day, who is expected to make his NHL debut tonight. Many Lightning fans may not really know the name, but this debut has been a long time coming for Day. He was drafted in the third round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Rangers.

Day was once considered a top prospect during his Junior career in the Ontario Hockey League. In 2013, Day was granted Exceptional Player Status by Hockey Canada, meaning that he was eligible to be drafted in the OHL as a 15-year-old. The traditional requirement is 16 years of age. Day was the fourth of just seven players who have ever been granted the exemption. Others who have received the exemption include John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad and Connor McDavid. At 23 years old, Day will finally get a chance to appear in the NHL after a rollercoaster ride in his hockey career.

The Montreal Canadiens will also be without some pieces of their team tonight. Montreal currently has nine players in the COVID protocol including all their top defensemen and their starting goaltender, Jake Allen. Sam Montembeault will start in the Montreal net. He has made five starts this season and appeared in eight games. He is 1-4 with a 3.65 GAA and .897 sv%