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GAME DAY: vs. Tampa Bay

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

  Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
RECORDS - CBJ: 9-18-4 (Home: 6-9-2), TB: 13-16-2 (Road: 5-11-2)
WHEN: Dec. 17, 2011 - 7 p.m.   |   WHERE: Nationwide Arena
FOX Sports Ohio (HD)  |  LISTEN: 97.1 The Fan &

The Tampa Bay Lightning could best be described as an unpredictable team – starting with their surprise run to the Eastern Conference finals a year ago and completing a stunning first-round comeback against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Couple that with their perplexingly slow start to this season, and it’s easy to see why coach Guy Boucher is dealing with a bad case of frustration these days.

Steven Stamkos scored an important goal for the Lightning on Thursday night, the overtime winner in a back-and-forth contest against the visiting Calgary Flames. Stamkos’ goal sealed a 5-4 win for his team, and two points that were sorely needed – Tampa Bay had lost its previous two games and six of its past seven overall. Perhaps their most glaring weakness is the absence of Martin St. Louis, who is out indefinitely with facial and nasal fractures resulting from a puck to the face in practice (the day he was scheduled to play in his 500th consecutive game).

St. Louis is the straw that stirs the drink in Boucher’s offense, and without him, the Lightning have looked lost at times and their goaltending hasn’t helped. Dwayne Roloson hasn’t followed up a strong 2010-11 campaign very well, and recently lost his net to backup Mathieu Garon. Roloson’s numbers (3.76 goals-against average, .882 save percentage) won’t win him many starts, but Garon has not performed much better.

A pleasant surprise for the Lightning has been the offensive production of defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron. GM Steve Yzerman signed Bergeron in the middle of last season to boost his scoring on the blue line, and Bergeron’s big shot from the point was a major asset in the playoffs. He’s carried that over to this season, as well, posting 22 points so far to put him second overall in team scoring.

In order for the Lightning to get back on track and into the playoff picture once again, they are going to need production from all of their top-six forwards and not just Stamkos.

Nash (9) Stamkos (19)
Prospal (17) Bergeron (19)
Prospal (24) Stamkos (35)
Dorsett (73) Downie (72)
MacKenzie (+7) Stamkos (+10)
Sanford (5-5-3)
Garon (7-8-1)
Sanford (2.42) Garon (2.79)
Sanford (.914) Garon (.903)
• Columbus, which closes out a five-game homestand tonight against the Lightning, will look to bounce back from Thursday’s 2-1 loss to Los Angeles. The Jackets went 3-1-0 at home Nov. 12-25, but are 1-3-1 the last five home games.

• Jeff Carter has goals in four-straight games after scoring his seventh of the season Thursday against Los Angeles. It’s his longest goal streak since a four-game streak Jan. 13-18, 2011 as a member of the Flyers. The goals come after he went six games without a goal. He has 7-2-9 the last 11 games after being held to 0-3-3 the first eight games of the season.

Rick Nash has points in four of the last seven games, with 2-2-4 during that stretch. He has collected 5-4-9 the last 12 games after being held to 1-3-4 the previous 10 games. He leads the team in goals and ranks second in points, and is sixth in the NHL with 113 shots on goal.

• Tonight marks the first of two meetings overall and lone meeting at Nationwide Arena this season between the Blue Jackets and Lightning. Columbus is 4-4-3 all-time against Tampa Bay, including a 3-1-1 mark at Nationwide Arena.

Derek MacKenzie was +1 Dec. 10 vs. Boston and is now +7 on the season to lead the Jackets in that category. He has been plus or even in 29 of 31 games this season and is +21 for his Jackets career, which has spanned 130 games from 2007-11.


C  -  #4
  11 Goals
  10 Assists
  21 Points

• Lecavalier has been one of the NHL’s most dynamic centers since being drafted first overall by the Lightning in the 1998 Entry Draft, and though his numbers aren’t what they were five years ago, he’s still a big part of Tampa Bay’s offense.

D Radek Martinek (upper body); indefinitely
LW Kristian Huselius (lower body); indefinitely

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