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5 Keys: Lightning at Blue Jackets, Game 4

Columbus eyes historic sweep; Kucherov, Stamkos, Point must deliver for Tampa Bay

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer


7 p.m. ET: CNBC, SN360, TVAS, FS-O, SUN

Columbus leads best-of-7 series 3-0


[RELATED: Complete Lightning at Blue Jackets series coverage]


The Columbus Blue Jackets can make history when they play the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday.

The Blue Jackets can win the first Stanley Cup Playoff series in their history. They had never won more than two games in their previous four appearances before winning Game 3 on Sunday.

Columbus can also become the first team in NHL history to sweep the team with the best record in the regular season in the first round. 

"This is Game 4 for us," coach John Tortorella said. "We've just got to be ready to play Game 4."

Tampa Bay will not have defenseman Victor Hedman for a second straight game. Hedman, who won the Norris Trophy last season, is out with an undisclosed injury. 

Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov, who led the NHL with 128 points (41 goals, 87 assists) in the regular season, will return after missing Game 3 because of a suspension.

"I didn't want to miss the game, that wasn't something I was happy about, obviously," Kucherov said. "It didn't feel good just to watch the game. I want to be with the guys, in the room with the guys, feel the game and play the game, but [stuff] happens. I was put in position to miss the game. Right now, I want to go out there and play and try to help the guys win the game."

The Lightning are the second Presidents' Trophy-winning team to lose the first three games of the playoffs. The Vancouver Canucks trailed 3-0 against the Los Angeles Kings in 2014. They won Game 4 and lost the series in Game 5.

Here are 5 keys for Game 4:


1. Time is now for Lightning's big three

It's less surprising that the Lightning are down 3-0 in the series when you consider Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point have been held off the scoresheet after combining for 318 points (127 goals, 191 assists) in the regular season.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper will try to kickstart the offense he needs from Kucherov and Stamkos by playing them on the same line to start Game 4. They will be with Anthony Cirelli, who will likely center hat line.

Point is expected to start on a line with Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson.

Video: Lightning, Penguins face elimination on Tuesday


2. Stay tight through the middle

The Blue Jackets have been effective in controlling the middle of the ice for seven of nine periods in the series. They've outscored the Lightning 11-1 in those periods.

When their structure has waned and they've given up more space in the middle than they would like, specifically in the first period of Game 1 and the third period of Game 3, they have struggled and the Lightning have outscored them 4-0 with a goalie in the net.


3. Maintain discipline

Special teams are a big reason why the Blue Jackets lead 3-0. They are 4-for-8 on the power play and 5-for-5 with a shorthanded goal for on the penalty kill. Columbus didn't give Tampa Bay a power-play opportunity in Game 3.

The last thing Columbus wants to do is give the Lightning life by putting them on the power play. By staying out of the box, the Blue Jackets are also able to roll their four lines, which they have done throughout the series.

Video: Zach Werenski discusses his teams' 3-0 advantage


4. Lightning need to force issue

The Lightning's big point of emphasis going into Game 4 is making sure they're better on the PK. if they make try to make more plays through the neutral zone and in the offensive zone than they've been making, they likely will force the Blue Jackets to commit a stick foul to put them on the power play.

Tampa Bay was first with the man-advantage (28.2 percent) in the regular season. It has the ability to win a game.


5. Score first

The team that has scored first has also scored the second goal in all three games. That didn't work for the Lightning in Game 1, when they blew a 3-0 lead and lost 4-3, but giving up that big of a lead was more of an aberration. 

Typically, the team that scores first puts the other on its heels, forcing it to open up a bit. That could open chances for odd-man opportunities the other way. It also puts pressure on the team trailing and takes stress off the team leading.

The Lightning think they would be able to relieve some of the stress they already feel by scoring first in Game 4. The Blue Jackets know they'll put the Lightning under even more pressure if they get the first goal. 


Lightning projected lineup

Steven Stamkos -- Anthony Cirelli -- Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat -- Brayden Point -- Tyler Johnson

Mathieu Joseph -- Cedric Paquette -- J.T. Miller

Ryan Callahan -- Yanni Gourde -- Alex Killorn

Ryan McDonagh -- Erik Cernak

Mikhail Sergachev -- Dan Girardi

Braydon Coburn -- Jan Rutta

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Louis Domingue

Scratched: Danick Martel, Cameron Gaunce, Adam Erne

Injured: Anton Stralman (lower body), Victor Hedman (upper body)


Blue Jackets projected lineup

Artemi Panarin -- Pierre-Luc Dubois -- Cam Atkinson

Ryan Dzingel -- Matt Duchene -- Josh Anderson

Alexandre Texier -- Nick Foligno -- Oliver Bjorkstrand

Brandon Dubinsky -- Boone Jenner -- Riley Nash

Zach Werenski -- Seth Jones

Scott Harrington -- David Savard

Adam Clendening -- Dean Kukan

Sergei Bobrovsky

Joonas Korpisalo

Scratched: Keith Kinkaid, Eric Robinson, Andrew Peeke, Alexander Wennberg, Markus Hannikainen, Lukas Sedlak, Zac Dalpe

Injured: Adam McQuaid (upper body), Ryan Murray (upper body), Markus Nutivaara (upper body)


Status report

Killorn (lower body) is a game-time decision. Erne would replace him. ... Stralman practiced but will miss his fifth straight game. … Columbus will use the same lineup from Game 3. … The Blue Jackets are without three of their top six defensemen from the regular season: Nutivaara is out a second straight game. Murray has missed 27 games and McQuaid eight.


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