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Lightning ready to contend with St. Louis' return

by Corey Long

RANGERS (9-7-4) at LIGHTNING (14-6-2)


TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning will need another strong defensive effort at Amalie Arena on Wednesday against the New York Rangers.

The Lightning (14-6-2) are coming off of a 2-1 win Saturday against the Minnesota Wild and defenseman Anton Stralman said it's important to build off of that game.

"We have to continue to work hard because these guys are capable of scoring with anyone," Stralman said. "It's going to be a fun game. Some guys are going to be emotional."

The major story Wednesday is the return to Tampa of former Lightning captain Martin St. Louis. The team has planned a video tribute for St. Louis before the game and Stralman said he expects to see St. Louis at his best.

"I've played against him a bunch of times and you know he's going to battle," Stralman said. "He uses his strength well, especially for a guy his size. A lot of people don't expect him to be as strong as he is."

Tampa Bay continues to make adjustments to the defensive pairings while Victor Hedman is recovering from injury. Over the last two weeks Mark Barberio has jumped into the spot once occupied by Eric Brewer, sending the latter to the bench.

"It's been hard on him because he's a very proud man," Lightning assistant coach Rick Bowness said of Brewer. "This is the first time in his career that he's been faced with this, but he's the first guy here and he's handling it well. I know it's eating him up inside."

The Rangers might be a week away from the return of captain Ryan McDonagh, but it was hard to tell by the way the defenseman was skating Tuesday in his first full practice since separating his shoulder on Nov. 1. He also took part in the morning skate Wednesday.

McDonagh, however, will sit against the Lightning and is doubtful to return Friday against the Philadelphia Flyers.

"We're not going to play him tonight," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "We want to be 100-percent sure on him before he returns to the lineup. I would say he'll be cleared to play in the next week at some point. He's getting close."

Here are the projected lineups:


Chris Kreider - Kevin Hayes - Rick Nash

Mats Zuccarello - Derek Stepan - Martin St. Louis

Carl Hagelin - Derick Brassard - Anthony Duclair

Tanner Glass - Dominic Moore - Lee Stempniak

Dan Boyle - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Kevin Klein

John Moore - Matt Hunwick

Henrik Lundqvist

Cam Talbot

Scratched: Michael Kostka, Ryan Malone, Chris Mueller

Injured: Ryan McDonagh (separated shoulder)


Valtteri Filppula - Steven Stamkos - Ryan Callahan

Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov

Vladislav Namestnikov - Brett Connolly - Alex Killorn

Brenden Morrow - Brian Boyle - Cedric Paquette

Matthew Carle - Anton Stralman

Andrej Sustr - Mark Barberio

Jason Garrison - Radko Gudas

Ben Bishop

Evgeni Nabokov

Scratched: Eric Brewer, J.T. Brown, Jonathan Drouin

Injured: Victor Hedman (fractured finger)

Status report: Hedman participated in the morning skate without a red jersey and could return to the lineup next week. Killorn was on lines with Stamkos and Callahan along with Connolly and Namestnikov.

Who's hot: Killorn has scored four goals in the past four games. … St. Louis had a goal and an assist in the Rangers' 5-0 victory against the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday.

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