LIGHTNING (47-24-7) at SENATORS (38-26-12)
TV: SUN, RDS2, TSN5
OTTAWA -- There won’t be any help on the way for the Tampa Bay Lightning when they play the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET; SUN, RDS2, TSN5).
It will be status quo for the Lightning, who are missing four of their top six defensemen and top-line forward Tyler Johnson due to injury, said coach Jon Cooper.
The Lightning, battling the Montreal Canadiens for first place in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference, defeated Montreal 5-3 on Monday, but lost 3-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday.
“It’s most definitely a challenge and I think we rode the wave of emotion in the Montreal game,” Cooper said. “Toronto just played better than we did. We talked to a lot of our guys about regardless of who’s in our lineup, our compete level is what’s going to get us through. I’ve watched this team compete at the highest levels for long periods of time. Whether it was the back-to-back or not, our compete level has got to be higher.”
Lightning defensemen Victor Hedman, Braydon Coburn, Jason Garrison and Andrej Sustr are out for the game Thursday and Cooper said he did not expect any of them to return for the game Saturday at the Florida Panthers.
“Do we have different group on the back end? Sure we do, but it pulled us through the Montreal game and I don’t know why it shouldn’t be able to pull us through other games,” Cooper said. “Toronto is a proud team and they’re trying to win like everybody else, but their desperation level is probably not the same as the team we’re going to see tonight and the team we’re going to see Saturday. So if your desperation level isn’t the same, it’ll be a tough night for us. That’s what was talked about in our room.”
Said Lightning captain Steven Stamkos: “It’s tough especially when you’re missing the caliber of players that we are. That’s a pretty long list of solid NHL players. We found a way in Montreal, so no excuses no matter who we’re playing. We need a better effort tonight.
“We have to find a way. Nobody’s feeling sorry for us at this time of year.”
The Lighting trail the Canadiens by one point, and Montreal has a game in hand on Tampa Bay.
The Lightning will be facing a Senators team that is desperately clinging to its playoff hopes. The Senators ended a three-game losing streak with a 2-1 win in overtime against the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday. They are three points behind the Boston Bruins for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Senators have played one game fewer than the Bruins.
“After the three games where we kind of got away from what was making us successful, it was good to have a really solid effort for 65 minutes,” said Senators goaltender Andrew Hammond. “We really showed ourselves, I guess as a reminder, how we have to play to be successful.
“Maybe we play our best hockey with our backs up against the wall. It’s something we’ve proven we can do successfully.”
Hammond, who is 15-1-1 as a starter in the NHL, will play against the Lightning.
“We’ve got to come out with the same urgency tonight. It’s another big game for us,” Senators captain Erik Karlsson said. “We’ve been playing with high pace lately and we’ve been getting pucks in and out. Playing simple hockey. Crashing the net and creating a lot of scoring chances. That’s what we have to keep doing. Even if it doesn’t go our way early in the game and even if we get scored on, we have to keep going. We can’t let anything distract us from the main purpose.”
Here are the projected lineups:
Alex Killorn – Valtteri Filppula – Steven Stamkos
Ondrej Palat – Vladislav Namestnikov – Nikita Kucherov
Jonathan Drouin – Cedric Paquette – Ryan Callahan
Brenden Morrow – Brian Boyle – J.T. Brown
Nikita Nesterov – Anton Stralman
Slater Koekkoek – Matthew Carle
Mark Barberio – Luke Witkowski
Injured: Mattias Ohlund (knee), Braydon Coburn (lower body), Jason Garrison (upper body), Andrej Sustr (upper body), Tyler Johnson (upper body), Victor Hedman (lower body)
Clarke MacArthur– Kyle Turris – Mark Stone
Zack Smith – Mika Zibanejad - Bobby Ryan
Erik Condra – Jean-Gabriel Pageau – Curtis Lazar
Mike Hoffman – David Legwand – Alex Chiasson
Marc Methot - Erik Karlsson
Patrick Wiercioch- Cody Ceci
Mark Borowiecki – Eric Gryba
Scratched: Colin Greening, Jared Cowen
Injured: Robin Lehner (concussion), Chris Phillips (back), Chris Neil (thumb), Milan Michalek (upper body), Matt Puempel (ankle)
Status report: Bishop will start for the Lighting and is looking for his 38th win of the season. He set a franchise record for most wins in a season with his 37th against the Canadiens on Monday. … Neil has been cleared for contact and said he hopes to play in a game before the regular season is over.
Who’s hot: Palat has three assists in his past two games. … Kucherov has a goal and an assist in his past two games. … Karlsson has a goal and two assists in his past two games. … Stone has a goal and two assists in his past two games.