TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning resume play after the holiday break sitting in second place in the Atlantic Division, five points behind the Boston Bruins and two points ahead of their opponent Saturday, the Montreal Canadiens.
Steven Stamkos has missed 20 games with a broken tibia and the Lightning have gone 11-6-3 while maintaining a spot near the top of the division since losing him Nov. 11. Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper points to Martin St. Louis as the reason the team has sustained its momentum.
"Stamkos had been his linemate for four-and-a-half years and Marty had to reinvent himself," Cooper said. "All he has done is lead us like a champion the last 10 games. Somebody had to pick us up after Stamkos went down and that's what captains do. He picked us up and he has led us the way ever since.
"That's why he is who he is. There are only a few special guys who can do things like that. You look at where he had to come from and how late he got to the NHL; he has had to fight through everything on the way up. You look at all the challenges he has had in the past, this has got to be one of the biggest ones. To lead a young, inexperienced -- I think we are the second-least inexperienced team in the League -- and to take a bunch of kids and put us where we are now, it's a testament to what he has brought to us."
St. Louis, who enters Saturday with a five-game point streak, admits he had to rearrange his thought process after the loss of Stamkos.
"I don't know if I changed my game. I adjusted to some new linemates," St. Louis said. "My thinking is a little bit different. When you play with a guy like Stamkos, you find yourself shooting a little less because he has such a good shot. You feel his shot has a better chance than your shot, so you find yourself in more of a passing mode. I think now I am playing more with a shot-first attitude, which I think goes away a little bit when I play with Stamkos. It is a chance to prove you can still do good things here. It's a challenge I wanted to overcome."
He'd be glad to return to pass-first mode as soon as possible.
"Oh, absolutely," St. Louis said. "Anytime when you play with a guy like Stamkos, it's a good day."
Defenseman Josh Gorges returns to the Canadiens after missing one game with a lower-body injury.
Max Pacioretty – David Desharnais – Brendan Gallagher
Rene Bourque – Tomas Plekanec – Brian Gionta
Alex Galchenyuk – Lars Eller – Daniel Briere
Brandon Prust – Ryan White – Travis Moen
Josh Gorges – P.K. Subban
Andrei Markov – Alexei Emelin
Raphael Diaz – Francis Bouillon
Scratched: Douglas Murray, Michael Bournival
Injured: George Parros (concussion)
Teddy Purcell – Valtteri Filppula – Alex Killorn
Martin St. Louis – Tyler Johnson – Ondrej Palat
Richard Panik – Tom Pyatt – Nikita Kucherov
B.J. Crombeen – Nate Thompson – J.T. Brown
Victor Hedman – Radko Gudas
Matthew Carle – Mark Barberio
Jean-Philippe Cote – Andrej Sustr
Scratched: Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Dmitry Korobov
Injured: Sami Salo (upper body), Eric Brewer (upper body) Ryan Malone (lower body)