TAMPA -- As the Tampa Bay Lightning return home for a three-game stretch leading into the All-Star break they will have to rely on their depth again.
Lightning forward Tyler Johnson and defenseman Victor Hedman were both injured in a 7-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday. Johnson, who leads the team with 46 points (17 goals, 29 assists), returned to the ice Thursday morning wearing a no-contact jersey and he could return to the lineup before the break.
“Tyler is improving, he’s a tough kid,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “He’s a lot closer to return than [Hedman].”
However both will be out Thursday as the Lightning (27-14-4) try to recover from back-to-back road losses against the Edmonton Oilers (10-25-9) at Amalie Arena.
Despite the losses to Philadelphia and Boston this week, the Lightning have won seven of their past 10 games and are currently riding a five-game win streak at Amalie Arena. Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said he hopes that the team will learn something from the losses.
“You can’t just throw those games away because we didn’t win,” Stamkos said. “It’s important to know that those are the results you get when you don’t play well and you don’t play with structure.”
The Oilers are coming off of a 4-2 road loss to the St. Louis Blues and have lost their past 12 road games. Edmonton's last win on the road was a 3-1 win against the New York Rangers on Nov. 9. The Oilers started backup goalie Viktor Fasth in that game, and he’s expected to get the start Thursday.
Despite the apparent mismatch on paper, the Oilers earned a 3-2 win against the Lightning in the only game between the two teams this season on Oct. 20.
“They have had a rough stretch over the last couple of months,” Stamkos said. “And we have had a couple of tough challenges lately so I expect us to come out strong on home ice and try to rebound.”
Stamkos has rebounded from a personal standpoint as of late, scoring four goals in his past three games. He is third in the league with 25 goals this season.
“You just can’t keep goal scorers down,” Cooper said. “You get worried when he’s getting zero chances but he’s been creating and working and they weren’t going in. Now they are going in. He’s still on pace for close to 50 goals, and in this day and age that’s a great total because you’re only going to have a couple of guys reaching that mark this season.”
Here are the projected lineups:
Taylor Hall – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Jordan Eberle
Benoit Pouliot – Derek Roy – Nail Yakupov
Rob Klinkhammer – Anton Lander – Teddy Purcell
Matt Hendricks – Boyd Gordon – Luke Gazdic
Andrew Ference – Jeff Petry
Oscar Klefbom – Mark Fayne
Nikita Nikitin – Justin Schultz
Scratched: Matt Fraser, Keith Aulie
Injured: Tyler Pitlick (spleen)
Ondrej Palat – Steven Stamkos – Nikita Kucherov
Cedric Paquette – Valtteri Filppula – Ryan Callahan
Alex Killorn – Vladislav Namestnikov – Jonathan Drouin
Brenden Morrow – Brian Boyle – J.T. Brown
Anton Stralman – Nikita Nesterov
Matthew Carle – Andrej Sustr
Jason Garrison – Mark Barberio
Scratched: Brett Connolly
Injured: Radko Gudas (knee surgery), Tyler Johnson (lower body), Victor Hedman (lower body).
Status Report: Johnson participated in the team’s morning skate but is doubtful for the game Thursday. …Connolly is likely to be scratched but he participated in rushes with Killorn and Namestnikov.
Who’s Hot: Stamkos scored two goals in the Lightning’s 4-3 loss to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday and has 25 goals this season. …Pouliot scored two goals for the Oilers in a 4-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday.