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At the Rink: Kings at Lightning

by Corey Long

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning will try to extend their home win streak to 11 games but must deal with another injury to an already thin group of defensemen.

The Lightning (33-15-5) will be without Jason Garrison when they play the Los Angeles Kings at Amalie Arena on Saturday.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he doesn't think Garrison's injury is long-term, but he likely will be held out of the game against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday. Garrison's injury, along with long-term injuries to Matthew Carle and Radko Gudas, have forced the Lightning to rely on a young group of defensemen to play a lot of minutes.

"Garrison is a big penalty killer so someone is going to have to step up and kill penalties," Cooper said. "If you don't want to do that, don't commit penalties. Garrison is a huge part of our team. We are playing against some heavy teams and Garrison is our heaviest defensemen. So it's a big hole."

After a 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers on Thursday, Los Angeles (21-18-12) is five points behind the Vancouver Canucks for the second Western Conference wild-card berth into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Despite their struggles this season, Cooper said the defending Stanley Cup champions are a highly skilled team.

"When I look across the ice I see the maybe the best, underrated center in the game in [Anze] Kopitar, probably the best defenseman in the game in [Drew] Doughty and maybe the best goalie in [Jonathan] Quick," Cooper said. "So it's best, best, best as far as I'm concerned."

The Kings are 0-3-0 on their current five-game road trip, so Lightning center Brian Boyle said he expects a very aggressive, desperate Kings team to show up Saturday afternoon.

"I know they haven't had the success they wanted to this year but any given night they have a number of guys that can beat you," Boyle said. "They have some top-end guys that can play. And they are big team that skates well and plays physical."

With four home games in February, the Lightning said they also want to keep the momentum going and take as many points as possible on home ice. A 5-3 win at the Dallas Stars on Thursday was a nice lead into back-to-back games against the Kings and Ducks, but Boyle said that maintaining focus will be the key to navigating through this tough part of the schedule.

"We can't look ahead regardless of the teams we will be facing down the road," Boyle said. "We have a tough opponent [Saturday] and another [Sunday]. We have to just prepare for each game as it comes and not look too far ahead."

The 5 p.m. ET start time for Saturday forced the Lightning to take their morning skate an hour earlier than usual. Goalie Ben Bishop said the time change caused a little confusion but he should be well-rested after Andrei Vasilevskiy made the start in goal Thursday.

"It's a little funny to be playing so early in the day with the sun still out," Bishop said. "But in reality once the puck drops it doesn't matter what time it is."

Here are the projected lineups:


Marian Gaborik - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown

Dwight King - Jeff Carter - Tyler Toffoli

Trevor Lewis - Jarret Stoll - Justin Williams

Kyle Clifford - Nick Shore - Andy Andreoff

Jake Muzzin - Drew Doughty

Matt Greene - Alec Martinez

Robyn Regehr - Jamie McBain

Jonathan Quick

Martin Jones

Scratched: Jordan Nolan, Brayden McNabb

Injured: Tanner Pearson (leg)


Valtteri Filppula - Steven Stamkos - Ryan Callahan

Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn - Cedric Paquette - Jonathan Drouin

Brenden Morrow - Brian Boyle - Brett Connolly

Victor Hedman - Andrej Sustr

Nikita Nesterov - Anton Stralman

Mark Barberio - Luke Witkowski

Ben Bishop

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Scratched: J.T. Brown

Injured: Jason Garrison (lower body), Radko Gudas (knee surgery), Matthew Carle (abdominal surgery)

Status Report: Since the Lightning don't believe Garrison's injury will keep him out long, they have not called anyone up from the American Hockey League. … Lewis moves up to the third line to skate with Williams and Stoll.

Who's Hot: Johnson scored two goals against Dallas and leads the Lightning with 51 points (19 goals, 32 assists). … Gaborik had a goal and had an assist against Florida.

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