The Tampa Bay Lightning host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday to complete the back end of back-to-back games.
While the contest marks an important opportunity for the Lightning to earn two points in their quest for an Eastern Conference playoff position — one in which the team is now six points behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the final wild card spot — the evening is also special for the Lightning franchise for a completely different reason.
Before the game, the Lightning will honor former captain Martin St. Louis by retiring his No. 26 — the first jersey number to be raised to the rafters in the history of the franchise.
The extended pre-game ceremony to honor St. Louis may be the sort of thing that helps build up the intensity for a Lightning team seeking a couple points before embarking upon a 13-day, six-game road trip that begins Saturday.
The Blue Jackets have been the league’s hottest team for over a month, having not lost a game in 16 straight contests before dropping a 5-0 decision to the Washington Capitals on Jan. 5. Since winning 16 straight, the Blue Jackets have lost three of their past four games and will be looking to bounce back, having not played since Tuesday night.
The Lightning have had two one-sided losses to the Blue Jackets in their previous meetings this season and will need to find their legs early in this one in order to give themselves the best chance to win.
Let’s take a closer look at Friday’s contest between these two clubs.
Columbus Blue Jackets at Tampa Bay Lightning
Amalie Arena – 8:00 p.m. EST
Broadcast Channels – SN, TVAS, Fox Sports Sun, FS-O
2016-17 Season Series: Blue Jackets lead 2-0-0 (Nov. 25: 5-3, Nov. 29: 5-1)
Columbus Blue Jackets – 28-8-4 – 60 points
Road Record: 12-4-3
Hot Players: Cam Atkinson, Nick Foligno
Key Injuries: David Clarkson (back)
Brandon Saad – Alexander Wennberg – Cam Atkinson
Scott Hartnell – Brandon Dubinsky – Nick Foligno
Boone Jenner – William Karlsson – Josh Anderson
Matt Calvert – Lukas Sedlak – Sam Gagner
Zach Werenski – Seth Jones
Jack Johnson – David Savard
Ryan Murray – Markus Nutivaara
*These line combinations are subject to change.
Tampa Bay Lightning – 20-19-4 – 44 Points
Home Record: 12-7-2
Hot Players: Jonathan Drouin, Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat
Key Injuries: Ryan Callahan (lower-body), Brayden Point (upper-body), Steven Stamkos (right knee)
Ondrej Palat – Vladislav Namestnikov – Nikita Kucherov
Brian Boyle – Valtteri Filppula – Jonathan Drouin
Alex Killorn – Tyler Johnson – Matthew Peca
Gabriel Dumont – Cedric Paquette – Michael Bournival
Victor Hedman – Anton Stralman
Jason Garrison – Nikita Nesterov
Braydon Coburn – Andrej Sustr or Luke Witkowski
**These line combinations are subject to change.
1) The Lightning recalled forward Erik Condra from the Syracuse Crunch (American Hockey League) on Friday. The decision was made just days before the Lightning leave for a 13-day road trip that initially takes them out west in an effort to have Condra ready to go in the event that the team loses another forward to injury.
2) Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and forward Matt Calvert each missed Tuesday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes participated in a team practice on Thursday and are expected to be in the lineup against the Lightning.
3) The Lightning power play contributed twice in the team’s 4-2 victory over the Sabres on Thursday. They enter Friday’s contest with the league’s second ranked unit (24.0-percent) and after killing off all four of the Sabres’ opportunities with the man advantage are 20th with an 80-percent success rate. The Blue Jackets are first in the NHL with a 25.8-percent success rate on the power play and 20th on the penalty kill (82.1-percent).
4) After yielding a goal to Sabres forward Matt Moulson on the first shot of the game, Bishop made 24 saves and gave up just one other goal in his first game action since going down with an injury on Dec. 20. The Lightning snapped a four-game losing streak in the process, but on the back side of playing back-to-back nights, Vasilevskiy will get the call between the pipes for the Lightning.
5) The Blue Jackets have outscored the Lightning a combined 10-4 in two contests this season and are coming off of a 16-game winning streak that fell one game short of tying an NHL record. However, they have dropped three of their past four contests, including the 5-0 decision to the Washington Capitals which ended their win streak on Jan. 5. The Blue Jackets will be well-rested and looking to bounce back to their winning ways on Friday, having not played since Tuesday.