BLUE JACKETS (21-23-3) at LIGHTNING (31-15-4)
TV: FS-O, SUN
TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning look to set a franchise record for consecutive home wins when they play the Columbus Blue Jackets at Amalie Arena on Saturday.
The Lightning (31-15-4) will be going for a 10th consecutive win at home and trying to maintain a slim lead over the Montreal Canadiens, Detroit Red Wings and New York Islanders at the top of the Eastern Conference.
Tampa Bay has 66 points while the Red Wings, Canadiens and Islanders entered play Saturday tied with 65.
With four home games on the schedule in February and little margin for error in the standings, the Lightning continues to talk about the importance of winning on home ice.
“We have to keep playing well at home,” Lightning wing Jonathan Drouin said. “We clearly have an advantage here with the way we skate and the fans here. Every night our goal needs to be getting the two points.”
Columbus (21-23-3) is 13 points out of a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers on Thursday. However the Blue Jackets are getting healthier and their physical style of play forced the Lightning to make some changes, inserting defenseman Luke Witkowski and wing Brenden Morrow in the lineup Saturday.
“They are a big team and we are going to go with a little heavier lineup [Saturday] to counter it,” Lightning assistant coach Rick Bowness said. “We also know what lies ahead, we’re going to be playing some pretty big, physical teams in February.”
The Blue Jackets activated defenseman Ryan Murray off of injured reserve and will pair him with David Savard on Saturday. The two haven’t played together this season, but Murray said he expects positive results from the move.
“We played a couple of times together last year and I really enjoyed it,” Murray said. “I think we complement each other very well and against a team that has the sort of speed that the Lightning play with I think we can match up well with them.”
Defenseman James Wisniewski said the reason the Lightning are so difficult to beat at home is because the opposition can get caught up in their fast, aggressive play.
“Puck possession against this team is important because you really want to control the tempo and get them out of their structure,” Wisniewski said. “They like to start off hot and if you give up a goal or two it’s going to be tough night. So we have to hold the puck, make smart decision and avoid turnovers because they really feed off of mistakes.”
Here are the projected lineups:
Nick Foligno - Ryan Johansen – Cam Atkinson
Scott Hartnell - Brandon Dubinsky - Corey Tropp
Alexander Wennberg – Artem Anisimov - Josh Anderson
Matt Calvert - Mark Letestu – Jared Boll
Jack Johnson – Fedor Tyutin
Ryan Murray - David Savard
Kevin Connauton - James Wisniewski
Scratched: Dalton Prout, Cody Goloubef, Jordan Leopold, Jack Skille
Injured: Brian Gibbons (knee), Nathan Horton (back), Boone Jenner (back), Ryan Murray (knee), Sergei Bobrovsky (groin)
Valtteri Filppula – Steven Stamkos – Ryan Callahan
Ondrej Palat – Tyler Johnson – Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Cedric Paquette – Jonathan Drouin
Brenden Morrow – Brian Boyle – Brett Connolly
Anton Stralman – Victor Hedman
Luke Witkowski – Mark Barberio
Jason Garrison – Andrej Sustr
Scratched: J.T. Brown, Nikita Nesterov
Injured: Radko Gudas (knee surgery), Matthew Carle (abdominal surgery)
Status report: The Lightning participated in an optional skate Saturday after a full practice Friday. … Murray took part in the Blue Jackets full skate and is likely to play Saturday. … Morrow will likely play in place of Brown on Saturday.
Who’s hot: Paquette had his first NHL hat trick in a 5-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday. He has four goals in the past two games. … Atkinson has a goal and two assists in the past two games.