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Preview: Lightning at Panthers

Forward Nick Bjugstad returns to Florida lineup; goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy starts for Tampa Bay

by Alain Poupart / Correspondent

LIGHTNING (22-22-5) at PANTHERS (20-19-10)

7:30 p.m. ET; FS-F, SUN, NHL.TV 


Lightning team scope

Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy will make his second consecutive start for the Tampa Bay Lightning after making 34 saves in a 5-2 win against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday that ended a personal six-game losing streak. "Ben [Bishop] has had a good share of the games since he's come back from injury, but it's one of those situations where [Vasilevskiy] deserved another start," coach Jon Cooper said. "I thought he was outstanding in Chicago. He gave us a chance to win the game, so we're going to ride him right now." Defenseman Jason Garrison will be back in the lineup after missing the past two games because of an illness. That will give Tampa Bay eight healthy defensemen and there's a possibility Cooper will dress seven of them against the Florida Panthers.


Panthers team scope

Forward Nick Bjugstad and defenseman Alex Petrovic will each return after missing time with injuries. "Obviously it's a big boost for us," coach Tom Rowe said. "They're two NHL players, big bodies and excited to play." Bjugstad missed nine games because of a lower-body injury after he missed the first 19 games of the season with a wrist injury. "It's getting old, the injuries," Bjugstad said. "I don't know, the last couple of years has been kind of a roller coaster as far as injuries go and returning and all that. It's no fun. I've just got to be grateful. I'm living, I'm here, so I've got to take advantage of every opportunity I get." Bjustad is expected to skate on the fourth line with Shawn Thornton and Greg McKegg. He led the Panthers with 24 goals in 2014-15 but has scored one goal and one assist in 21 games this season. "When I was scoring, I was generating five shots a night," Bjugstad said. "When I came back, it was hard to find ways to get a shot, it felt like. That's probably my biggest attribute is coming here and use my speed and shoot. If I'm not doing that, it makes it tough to produce and help the team out as far as offensively. It's tough at times, but [I'm going to try to] find ways to weather the storm. I'm going to wipe the slate clean here and try to just come back and do my best these 30-whatever games we've got left." Petrovic missed 33 games because of a foot injury.


Lightning projected lineup

Ondrej Palat -- Vladislav Namestnikov -- Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn -- Tyler Johnson -- J.T. Brown
Brian Boyle -- Valtteri Filppula -- Jonathan Drouin

Erik Condra -- Cedric Paquette -- Gabriel Dumont

Victor Hedman -- Anton Stralman

Jason Garrison -- Andrej Sustr

Nikita Nesterov -- Braydon Coburn 

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Ben Bishop

Scratched: Luke Witkowski, Jake Dotchin, Michael Bournival

Injured: Steven Stamkos (knee), Ryan Callahan (lower body), Brayden Point (upper body)


Panthers projected lineup

Jaromir Jagr -- Jared McCann -- Jonathan Marchessault  

Jussi Jokinen -- Vincent Trocheck -- Reilly Smith

Derek MacKenzie -- Michael Sgarbossa -- Colton Sceviour

Greg McKegg -- Nick Bjugstad -- Shawn Thornton

Keith Yandle -- Jason Demers

Mark Pysyk -- Aaron Ekblad

Michael Matheson -- Alex Petrovic
Roberto Luongo

James Reimer

Scratched: Paul Thompson, Jakub Kindl, Dylan McIlrath 

Injured: Aleksander Barkov (upper body) Jonathan Huberdeau (lower leg)

Status report

Point will miss his 14th game, but Cooper said he could be back for one of the Lightning's first two games after the All-Star break, against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday or the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. … Bournival did not take part in the morning skate. … Barkov and Huberdeau were on the ice for the entire skate but Rowe said there still was no timetable for either player. … Smith was the only Florida player not taking part in the skate but he's expected to be in the lineup. … Reimer, who was sent home from the Panthers' four-game road trip because his wife is expecting, will back up Luongo unless his wife goes into labor Thursday. If that happens, which Rowe said was not expected, sales executive Bobby Segin would get the call as the emergency goalie.


Who's hot

Filppula has a goal and seven assists in his past eight games. … Hedman's 12 power-play assists since Dec. 1 are the most in the League during that span. … Trocheck, who will be playing in his first NHL All-Star Game this weekend, has 17 points in his past 14 games. … Sgarbossa has two goals in his past three games. … Marchessault had an assist in each of the past three games.

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