Preview: Blue Jackets at Lightning
The NHL-best Tampa Bay Lightning must rebound from a regulation loss for the first time since late November when they open a two-game homestand against the surging Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night. The Lightning had gone 15-0-1 to pull within two games of the franchise-record point streak before hitting the post three times and dropping a 5-2 decision at San Jose on Saturday.
“We’ve got a lot of pride in here,” Tampa Bay defenseman Ryan McDonagh told reporters. “We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished, but there are a lot of games left. We should feel confident thinking where this team is headed.” The Lightning, who lead the league in scoring (4.12) and on the power play (30.1 percent), will go after a fifth straight victory over the Blue Jackets after routing them 8-2 in Tampa on Oct. 13 with a pair of goals from Brayden Point. Columbus has points in nine of its last 11 games (8-2-1), but had dropped two of three before grinding out a 4-3 win at Florida on Saturday after defenseman Seth Jones’ goal 18 seconds into overtime for coach John Tortorella's 599th career win. “Every team wants to stay away from any of those valleys, as far as winning and losing,” Tortorella, who recorded 239 wins and a Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay, told reporters Saturday. “I think we’ve answered a number of different situations this year that way.”
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, FS Ohio (Columbus), FS Sun (Tampa Bay)
ABOUT THE BLUE JACKETS (24-14-3): Left wing Artemi Panarin is on one of his best offensive surges of the season, making the scoresheet in seven straight games with four goals and seven assists, to lead the team with 45 points. Right wing Cam Atkinson has been blanked in the last two contests, but tops Columbus with 24 goals at the midpoint of the season, while Jones posted a point in his last five outings. However, the Blue Jackets have not been able to solve their problems on a power play that ranks last in the league (12.9 percent) after going 0-for-23 in the last 10 contests.
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (32-8-2): Right wing Nikita Kucherov saw his 12-game point streak come to an end and posted a minus-4 rating against San Jose, but leads the league with 69 points after a relatively slow start to the season. Point (team-most 24 goals) also saw an eight-game point streak end last time out, while captain Steven Stamkos had an assist Saturday after scoring once and setting up two at Los Angeles on Thursday. Defenseman Victor Hedman has registered a goal and six assists during a six-game point streak and has 15 of his 26 points this season on the power play.
1. Columbus captain F Nick Foligno could miss his fourth straight game to be with his five-year-old daughter, who is recovering from surgery.
2. Tampa Bay G Andrei Vasilevskiy has two shutouts and a .934 save percentage in six career games against the Blue Jackets.
3. Blue Jackets D Zach Werenski needs one goal to reach double digits for the third straight season and boasts seven points in the last seven games.
PREDICTION: Lightning 4, Blue Jackets 1