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At the Rink: Rangers at Lightning

by Corey Long / NHL.com

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning will be without at least four of their top nine forwards Thursday when they play the New York Rangers at Amalie Arena (7:30 p.m. ET; MSG, SUN).

Ondrej Palat, Cedric Paquette, Tyler Johnson and Jonathan Drouin will all miss the game for Tampa Bay (7-9-3) with injuries. Forward Ryan Callahan took part in an optional morning skate and Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he is questionable.

The former Rangers captain missed practice Wednesday and is considered day-to-day with a lower-body injury.

"[Callahan] is the only one that there's a little bit of potential," Cooper said. "I'm sure deep down this is one he doesn't want to miss."

To fill the roster spots the Lightning have called up several players from Syracuse of the American Hockey League. Defenseman Luke Witkowski and forward Mike Angelidis were added to the roster Thursday. Forwards Joel Vermin and Mike Blunden were called up in the past couple days.

"Hopefully they can get the jitters out during the warmups," Lightning goalie Ben Bishop said of the new additions. "There's going to be some nerves. It's an exciting time for them. It's a time when we're missing a lot of key pieces, so it's going to be important to come together as a team."

The Lightning's struggles in recent weeks have been well-documented. They are 4-9-3 since winning their first three games of the season. Despite that Cooper believes they're moving in the right direction.

"We're finding our game," Cooper said. "It's been a little different because we have so many different guys in the lineup now, but we've been playing OK. We've been getting our chances, we've got to keep plugging away."

Cooper doesn't expect the Rangers (14-2-2) to show the Lightning any sympathy Thursday and he shouldn't. This is the first game between the teams since the 2015 Eastern Conference Final. The Lightning won that series in seven games including a 2-0 shutout in Game 7 at Madison Square Garden.

"Everybody in that room knows that's the team that eliminated us from going to the Stanley Cup Final again," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said after practice Wednesday. "I expect our guys to be highly motivated and ready to go [Thursday]."

The Rangers have won their past nine games. Forward Derek Stepan said they are only focused on what's happening this season.

"We're focusing on 60 minutes of hockey," Stepan said. "They're a team that can be a successful team because they have so much skill and so much depth. But we have to make sure we're ready to play because they're going to bring it."

Here are the projected lineups:

RANGERS

Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - J.T. Miller

Oscar Lindberg - Kevin Hayes - Viktor Stalberg

Dominic Moore - Jarret Stoll - Jesper Fast

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Kevin Klein

Keith Yandle - Dan Boyle

Henrik Lundqvist

Antti Raanta

Injured: None

Scratched: Emerson Etem, Dylan McIlrath

LIGHTNING

Vladislav Namestnikov - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn - Valtteri Filppula - Jonathan Marchessault

J.T. Brown - Brian Boyle - Erik Condra

Joel Vermin - Jonathan Marchessault - Mike Blunden

Anton Stralman - Victor Hedman

Braydon Coburn - Jason Garrison

Matthew Carle - Andrej Sustr

Ben Bishop

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Injured; Ondrej Palat (ankle), Jonathan Drouin (undisclosed), Cedric Paquette (upper body), Tyler Johnson (upper body), Ryan Callahan (lower body)

Scratched: Luke Witkowski, Mike Angelidis

Status report: If Callahan is able to go, he would likely play on the top line with Stamkos and Namestnikov. … Each team had an optional skates Thursday. … Palat did some light skating without an ankle brace and could return shortly after Thanksgiving.

Who's hot: The Stamkos-Namestnikov-Kucherov line combined for 11 shots against the Florida Panthers on Monday. … Zuccarello had a goal and two assists in a 4-3 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday.

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