LIGHTNING (27-13-4) at BRUINS (22-15-6)
TV: TVA SPORTS, SNE, SNO, SUN, NESN
Tampa Bay Lightning forward Tyler Johnson and defenseman Victor Hedman are each day-to-day with lower-body injuries sustained Monday in a 7-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers and will not play Tuesday against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper told the Tampa Tribune the injuries are not considered long term. He also said Johnson is slightly closer to returning, but each could be back before the All-Star break.
Hedman has five goals, 20 points and a plus-9 rating in 26 games. He missed 18 games, from Oct. 20 to Nov. 26, with a broken finger. Johnson leads the Lightning with 46 points and was selected to play in the 2015 Honda NHL All-Star Game.
"They were freak things," Cooper said, according to the newspaper. "They weren't dirty plays, they weren't anything like that. It was the grind of the season, getting caught in the wrong place, wrong time."
The Bruins begin a three-game homestand winners of three straight and 4-0-3 in their past seven games while holding opponents to 12 goals. Although the Bruins went 5-6-3 in December for their first losing month since February 2012 (5-7-1), they hold the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with 50 points, one ahead of the Florida Panthers, who have three games in hand.
"We still have some work to do to be where we want to be," forward Patrice Bergeron told the Bruins website. "It's not necessarily a bad thing; I think it's a good thing to want to improve and to find ways to do that, and to get some steps forward. I think we've done that the last few games."
Despite the one-sided loss to the Flyers, the Lightning enter the game Tuesday winners of seven of their past nine and in first place in the Eastern Conference with 58 points.
"I think it's about getting better," Bergeron said. "We're facing a great team tonight, a team that we're chasing in the standings obviously, so we have to make sure we come out with a good effort."
The Lightning will play the Bruins in Boston for the first time since center Steven Stamkos sustained a broken tibia Nov. 11, 2013, when he crashed into the goal post following a race to the puck with Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton. Stamkos missed 46 games because of the injury.
Here are the projected lineups:
Alex Killorn - Steven Stamkos - Jonathan Drouin
Ondrej Palat - Vladislav Namestnikov - Nikita Kucherov
Cedric Paquette - Valtteri Filppula - Ryan Callahan
Brenden Morrow - Brian Boyle - Brett Connolly
Jason Garrison - Anton Stralman
Nikita Nesterov - Andrej Sustr
Mark Barberio - Matthew Carle
Scratched: J.T. Brown
Injured: Radko Gudas (knee), Victor Hedman (lower body), Tyler Johnson (lower body)
Brad Marchand - David Krejci - David Pastrnak
Milan Lucic- Patrice Bergeron - Daniel Paille
Reilly Smith - Carl Soderberg - Loui Eriksson
Chris Kelly - Gregory Campbell - Craig Cunningham
Zdeno Chara - Dougie Hamilton
Dennis Seidenberg - Adam McQuaid
Torey Krug - Kevan Miller
Scratched: Seth Griffith, Matt Bartkowski, Jordan Caron
Status report: Bruins coach Claude Julien is giving Cunningham every opportunity to win a spot on the fourth line, but Cunningham doesn't believe he's earned it yet. "For me, I'm still trying to make an impact and show that I can play at this level every night," Cunningham told WEEI.com. "You live day-to-day up here. For me, you never want to get comfortable. I think every day is kind of like a tryout. They're watching you and you've got to bring something every single day." … Forward Simon Gagne will not return this season because of personal reasons releated to the recent death of his father, the Bruins announced Monday. "Once I already knew [Monday], I texted him and he texted me back," Bergeron told the Bruins website. "He was just [wishing us] all the best, and he's definitely going to be following and pulling for us." … Namestnikov, the 27th pick of the 2011 NHL Draft, was recalled from Syracuse of the American Hockey League on Tuesday. He has three goals and seven points in 23 games with Tampa Bay this season.
Who's hot: Stamkos scored his 23rd goal Monday and has three goals in his past four games, including two game-winners. … Drouin is on a four-game point streak (four assists). … Palat has one goal and eight assists in his past six games. … Rask has won six straight games against the Lightning, with a 0.99 goals-against average and three shutouts. He is 2-0-1 with a 1.28 GAA and .960 save percentage in his past three games and hasn't allowed more than three goals in his past 14. … Krejci has an assist in three straight games and at least a point in seven of his past nine. … Krug is on a three-game assist streak with a point in 12 of his past 17.