The Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning are set to face off Tuesday night in a rematch of the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals. The Blackhawks ultimately came out on top in that series, and despite being one of the NHL’s best teams in recent years, the Tampa Bay Lightning have struggled as of late. After being pegged as one of the favorites in the Atlantic division, the Lightning have seemingly fallen from grace. The Blackhawks currently sit tied for first in the Central division with the Minnesota Wild. The Lightning, on the other hand, sit in eighth place in the Atlantic, tied with the Buffalo Sabres.
The Lightning have dealt with injuries, as have the Blackhawks. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, however, the Blackhawks are fully healthy right now while the Lightning are missing some of their best players. Marcus Kruger is the only injured player on the Blackhawks, and he’s slated to return either Tuesday or Thursday. For Tampa Bay, injuries to Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Ryan Callahan and J.T. Brown have seriously hindered their season.
The Blackhawks look destined for another playoff berth this season as they hold a 12 point lead on the third-place Nashville Predators in the Central division. The Lightning aren’t having a good season, but despite sitting in last place in the Atlantic, they remain present in the playoff race with the third-place Toronto Maple Leafs holding only six more points than them. Anything is possible in the Atlantic, but winning consistently will be key if the Lightning plan on reaching the playoffs once again this season.
Tampa Bay Lightning at Chicago Blackhawks
United Center – 7:30 p.m. CT on Tuesday, Jan. 24
Broadcast channels – CSN-CH, SUN
2016-17 Season Series:
First Matchup of the Season
Tampa Bay Lightning – 21-22-5 – 47 points
Away Record: 9-14-3
Hot Players: Ondrej Palat, Valtteri Filppula
Key Injuries: Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Ryan Callahan, J.T. Brown, Jason Garrison
Ondrej Palat-Tyler Johnson-Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn-Vladislav Namestnikov-Joel Vermin
Brian Boyle-Valtteri Filppula-Jonathan Drouin
Michael Bournival-Cedric Paquette-Gabriel Dumont
Victor Hedman-Anton Stralman
Nikita Nesterov-Andrej Sustr
Braydon Coburn-Jake Dotchin
Chicago Blackhawks – 30-14-5 – 65 Points
Home Record: 18-5-4
Hot Players: Artemi Panarin, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews
Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane
Vinnie Hinostroza-Jonathan Toews-Marian Hossa
Ryan Hartman-Tanner Kero -Richard Panik
Andrew Desjardins-Marcus Kruger-Nick Schmaltz
Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk
1)The Blackhawks and Lightning faced off in the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals with Chicago coming out on top to win their third championship since 2010. This game will be a rematch between the two teams that have trended in different directions in the 2016-17 season.
2)Jonathan Toews scored a goal and added three assists in Sunday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks. He’ll look to keep rolling against the Lightning after having a relatively quiet start to the season that has been hindered due to injury.
3)The Lightning are coming off of a 5-3 loss to the Arizona Coyotes and are looking to bounce back as they continue their two-week road trip. The Lightning are 0-2-1 in their last three games.
4)Kruger is expected to return to the Blackhawks lineup either Tuesday or Thursday night after being activated from the injured reserve. The Blackhawks have killed 17 of 22 power plays in Kruger’s absence, and the addition of their top penalty killer to the lineup will certainly add a boost moving forward.
5)Marian Hossa has two goals in his last two games as well as five points over a three-game point streak. The veteran winger will look to extend that streak Tuesday against the Lightning. Ondrej Palat has scored three goals and six points in his last six games as well.
The Blackhawks and Lightning are both very talented teams. Despite injuries affecting both teams, it’s clear that the Blackhawks have managed much better than Tampa Bay has. As is usually the case for opposing teams, the Blackhawks will be a measuring stick for the Lightning who are slated to come into the United Center in search of a bounce-back effort after losing their last three games. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks will need to stay focusd as they face off against a last-place team that is still filled to the brim with talent.