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Pre-Game Notebook: Stralman, Coburn Game-Time Decisions for Rematch Against Philly

by Bryan Burns / Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning defensemen Anton Stralman and Braydon Coburn are nearing a return to the lineup after each has missed time due to various ailments.

Stralman sat out a game for the first time in his Lightning career on Tuesday in the Bolts’ 1-0 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins. Coburn has missed the last two games with a lower-body injury.

Both have practiced the last two days but will be evaluated again following today’s morning skate. Their status for tonight’s game will be decided near puck drop.

“Hopefully, they’ll get in the lineup tonight,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “If not, hopefully Columbus [on Sunday].”

Coburn said it was a “freak Injury” that occurred when he got tangled up with a Carolina Hurricane player on Saturday. He was forced to sit out Monday’s game in Philadelphia, which would have been his first time playing against his former team in his old city.

“That was a tough one to swallow,” Coburn said. “It’s one of those things as soon as the trade happens, you kind of circle that date on the schedule when you go back. It’s kind of unfortunate, but you move away from that and move forward.”

DESPERATE HOCKEY

Philadelphia ended Tampa Bay’s franchise record nine-game win streak on Monday, outshooting the Lightning 40-18 in one of the Bolts’ worst performances of the season.

“They played a heck of a game and had us on the run for most of the night,” Cooper said. “If it were not for (Andrei) Vasilevskiy’s heroics, who knows what the score would have been. But I really, really liked the way we responded [a day later] against Boston. Although we didn’t win the game, our compete and our passion and everything was back. I fully expect to see that again tonight.”

The Flyers are fighting for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Currently, Philadelphia is in ninth place in the East, three points behind Pittsburgh for eighth place in the East.

“That’s the one thing we did not match is their desperation level,” Cooper said about Monday’s 4-2 loss to the Flyers. “We had been kind of rolling. We had reeled off nine in a row, and at some point I guess our bubble was going to burst. But, now we’ve got to step back up again. They’re right there nipping at a playoff spot, and we can’t take anything for granted. It’s desperate hockey now coming down the stretch, and we can’t rest where we’re at. We’ve got to play as desperate as they do.”

The Lightning fell back into a tie for second place in the Atlantic Division following Boston’s 3-2 overtime loss to Carolina on Thursday and Florida’s 6-2 win over Ottawa. The Bolts are level with the Panthers in the Atlantic but own the tiebreaker thanks to more wins in regulation/overtime (Tampa Bay -36; Florida – 31).

“We need to understand even after ripping off nine in a row, we’re in a pretty tight race too,” Lightning forward Brian Boyle said. “We need to be equally as desperate. We’re at home. We’re getting toward the end of the season. We really need to play well and play with some desperation.”

POWER-PLAY WOES

he Lightning spent a majority of Thursday’s practice working on a power play that has struggled to score goals of late.

The Bolts have just three power-play goals in their last 13 games (3-for-42, 7.1%) and have been shut out on the power play in each of their last five games.

“We’re under 10 percent in our last 11 games, but we’re 9-1-1 so we’ve gotten by without the power play being consistent,” Cooper said following Thursday’s training session. “The one thing is when we did score, it won us the Carolina game, it won us the Boston game. So it was timely in a couple of those wins, but it was a 1-0 game in overtime the other night (against Boston), we had four power plays and we get nothing from it. You could sit here and argue that that was the difference. As a staff, when things aren’t going as well as you’d like to see, it’s our job to put our players in the best position to succeed. We kind of mixed a few things up with our units and our philosophy and see how it goes against Philly.”

The Lightning power play currently ranks T-25th in the NHL at 16.7 percent. The Bolts own the eighth-best home power play (21.8%) but are next to last (10.7%) in the league on the road.

“We’re kind of at the desperation level with the power play right now,” Bolts captain Steven Stamkos said. “You’re willing to try some things that you’ve not in the past. We need to find a way. It’s been masked because we’ve been winning, but you see some of the games that we easily could have won or we’ve lost even going back to earlier this year if the power play could get us a few. You look at the best power plays in the league, they can swing momentum of games, they can win the game. We’ve got to figure it out heading into the playoffs.”

ODDS AND ENDS

Cooper said Ben Bishop will get the start in goal tonight for the Lightning. Bishop will be making his 50th start of the season. Bishop (4,650 saves with the Bolts) is 65 saves away from tying Nikolai Khabibulin (4,715) for second-most saves in franchise history…Nikita Kucherov will appear in his 200th career NHL game provided he’s in the lineup as expected tonight…Tampa Bay is 21-7-1 since Jan. 1…The Lightning are fourth in the NHL for goals-against per game (2.34)…Bishop leads the league for GAA (2.04)…The Bolts are 12-0-0 this season when Tyler Johnson scores a goal. Johnson has points in seven of his last 10 games…Ondrej Palat has four goals in his last four games.

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