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At the Rink: Lightning at Blue Jackets

by Rick Gethin

COLUMBUS -- The Tampa Bay Lightning arrived riding a four-game winning streak, while the Columbus Blue Jackets are 0-6-1 during their past seven games.

The Lightning are 7-3-0 in their past 10 games (9-3-1 overall) and lead the Atlantic Division. They would appear to be rolling along smoothly, but coach Jon Cooper sees room for improvement.

"I think we've played pretty good hockey for most of the season," Cooper said. "But I don't know if I can say that we've thrown a complete 60 [minutes] together, which is probably good and bad. Good in the sense that I think we have a little more to give."

Tampa Bay has won two of its first three games against Metropolitan Division opponents.

"As a coach you're always picking apart ways to improve," he said. "The one thing that's always been there has been our effort. I think we're slowly getting better as a team."

The Lightning have three games in four days on a trip that takes them from Columbus to playing at the Detroit Red Wings before finishing against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday.

"This is going to test us," Cooper said. "We're playing three teams that were in the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs last year. I think this is a good litmus test for our team."

The Blue Jackets have been severely tested through 13 games. The injury bug has hit hard and often for the NHL's youngest team. Forward Matt Calvert is the latest to aggravate a previous injury.

Columbus coach Todd Richards knows he has a hot team to contend with against Tampa Bay.

"We're playing a talented team," he said. "This team is talented and deep. They can make you look bad quick."

Carolina earned a point in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday.

"We were better," Richards said. "That's the bottom line; we were better. But it still wasn't good enough because we didn't get the win."

The list of improvements has been repeated often and Richards reiterated them Saturday.

"We have to find ways to finish games out and we can't take penalties," he said. "We have to find a way to not shoot ourselves in the foot."

Here are the projected lineups:

LIGHTNING

Valtteri Filppula - Steven Stamkos - Ryan Callahan

Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov

Brian Boyle - Brenden Morrow - J.T. Brown

Jonathan Drouin - Vladislav Namestnikov - Cedric Paquette

Matthew Carle - Anton Stralman

Jason Garrison - Radko Gudas

Eric Brewer - Andrej Sustr

Evgeni Nabokov

Ben Bishop

Scratched: Mark Barberio

Injured: Brett Connolly (lower body), Alex Killorn (upper body), Victor Hedman (fractured finger)

BLUE JACKETS

Scott Hartnell - Boone Jenner - Cam Atkinson

Brian Gibbons - Ryan Johansen - Nick Foligno

Dana Tyrell - Alexander Wennberg - Jack Skille

Corey Tropp - Michael Chaput - Jared Boll

Fedor Tyutin - David Savard

Tim Erixon - James Wisniewski

Dalton Prout - Frederic St. Denis

Anton Forsberg

Curtis McElhinney

Scratched: Adam Cracknell

Suspended: Jack Johnson

Injured: Artem Anisimov (upper body), Sergei Bobrovsky (broken finger), Brandon Dubinsky (abdominal surgery), Cody Goloubef (knee), Nathan Horton (back), Mark Letestu (groin), Ryan Murray (lower body), Matt Calvert (upper body)

Status report: Columbus recalled Tyrell and assigned forward Marko Dano to the Springfield Falcons of the American Hockey League. Tyrell was a second-round draft pick (No. 47) of the Lightning at the 2007 NHL Draft. Dano had one goal and one assist in eight games with the Blue Jackets.

Who's hot: Foligno leads the team with six goals and is second in points behind Johansen with 13. … Paquette scored his first two NHL goals in the Lightning's previous game.

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