TAMPA, Fla. --
After a 4-1 loss Monday in Nashville and a late-night flight, the Columbus Blue Jackets
arrived at their Tampa hotel early Tuesday morning and skipped the morning skate to rest up before facing the Tampa Bay Lightning
tonight at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Rested or not, for the Lightning, struggling to gain traction for a playoff run, there can be no more welcome sight than the Blue Jackets coming over the horizon.
Columbus' 5-16-3 road record is the worst in the NHL, and they have allowed 37 more goals then they have scored away from home.
Tampa Bay apparently has shaken off the effects of a recent seven-game winless streak and is back on track, arriving home from a two-game road swing seeking their fourth consecutive win. If they get it, they will have their longest win streak of the season.
Although this will be the final game before the All-Star break for both clubs, it marks the first in a crucial 12-game stretch for Tampa Bay. They will play nine of those games at home, where they are 12-7-1 this season. If the Lightning, nine points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, are to make a run for the postseason, these next 12 games will be key.
Tuesday night will be the second and final time these two teams meet this season. The Lightning got a 3-2 win in Columbus on Dec. 17 behind goalie Mathieu Garon
, who turned aside 26 shots. Garon will be back in the net Tuesday for the Lightning.
Despite a 5-1-0 all-time record against Columbus at home, Tampa Bay, with nine players out with injuries, is taking nothing for granted.
"They (Columbus) have been working hard and battling lately," Brett Clark
said. "They battle hard for 60 minutes. You can't underestimate them. For us, we have to come out with the same effort we've had the last few games and sustain it for 60 minutes. That's the key."
, leading the NHL in goals with 32, discounted the Blue Jackets' road record as a factor.
"They have a poor road record, but so did we and we just won two in a row, so stats can be misleading sometimes,' Stamkos said. "You can't take any team for granted in this League and we're definitely not in a position to do that, anyway. We have one game before the break and we need a win."
Here's what both teams likely will put on the ice tonight. The Lightning will play seven defensemen and 11 forwards:
- Antoine Vermette
- Rick Nash
- Derick Brassard
- Tomas Kubalik
- Samuel Pahlsson
- Derek Dorsett
- Derek MacKenzie
- Jared Boll
- Brett Lebda
- John Moore
- Aaron Johnson
will start in goal, with Steve Mason
Martin St. Louis
- Vincent Lecavalier
- Steve Downie
- Steven Stamkos
- Teddy Purcell
- Trevor Smith
- Brett Connolly
- Nate Thompson
- Pavel Kubina
- Matt Gilroy
- Brendan Mikkelson
will start in goal, with Dwayne Roloson