CALGARY, AB -- Though expectations were heightened this season for the Tampa Bay Lightning, few figured the team would be this impressive -- especially after losing franchise piece Steven Stamkos to a broken tibia in November.
The Lightning have continued to roll and currently trail the Boston Bruins by just four points for the Atlantic Division lead.
With Stamkos out, veteran Martin St. Louis has stepped up, as has goaltender Ben Bishop, one of the league’s best goaltenders this season. That duo, along with a cast of others, has more than kept Tampa Bay afloat as they look to chase down a playoff berth for the first time since 2011.
This Season: 24-12-2, 56 points (3rd in East)
Last season: 18-26-4, 40 points (14th in East)
Notable Additions: C/LW Valtteri Filppula, D Drew Olson, RW Geoff Walker
Notable Subtractions: G Mathieu Garon, C Vincent Lecavalier, D Brendan Mikkelson, LW/RW Benoit Pouliot.
Flames Season Series Record: 0-0-0
Few goaltenders have been as hot of late as Bishop. The 6-foot-7, 27-year-old goaltender has four victories in his past five starts and has won six of his past seven, allowing just nine goals against during that span. Bishop, who was left off Team USA’s Olympic roster, is 21-5-3 with a 1.89 goals against average and .935 save percentage this season.
MARTIN ST. LOUIS
Though he has eight points over his past eight games, St. Louis has been blanked in his past two outings. The 38-year-old Olympic hopeful remains as dangerous as ever, though. He paces all Lightning players in goals (17), assists (21) and points (38).
THREE PLAYERS TO WATCH
Johnson, an unsigned 20-year-old with the Spokane Chiefs before being scooped up by the Lightning three seasons ago, has acquitted himself well to pro hockey. The now 23-year-old has 11 goals and 22 points in 40 games. The 5-foot-9, 182-pound pivot also has three goals and an assist during his four-game point-scoring streak.
Selected second overall behind John Tavares in 2009, Hedman has blossomed into a top defenceman for Tampa Bay. He’s second in ice time among all Lightning skaters, averaging 21:50, while his seven goals and 21 points is tops among all blueliners.
Signed as an unrestricted free agent last July, Filppula has thrived in Tampa Bay. After scoring just nine times with the Detroit Red Wings in the shortened season a year ago, the 29-year-old has already found the back of the net 15 times this year. His 32 points are second on the Lightning, too.