All eyes on Lightning-Canadiens tonight
There's only one game on the NHL schedule tonight, and it's a big one.
The Lightning, still fightning for its playoff life, faces the Canadiens at the Bell Centre. With a win, Tampa Bay can stay alive for one more day, putting more pressure on the Maple Leafs, the one team it can still catch.
Win (in regulation or overtime), and the Lightning is one point out with one game left, and Toronto has a tough home back-to-back with Pittsburgh (Saturday) and Columbus (Sunday). But the Lightning's impressive 4-1 win over the Maple Leafs gave it a chance.
"At this point, all we can do is put a little pressure on," defenseman Anton Stralman said. "We have to have the same effort (Friday), or (Thursday) is a wasted one."
This will be a tough task tonight, as Carey Price will start in net for Montreal. The Lightning's decision in net will be interesting. It certainly appears like Andrei Vasilevskiy is getting a back-to-back start. Veteran backup Peter Budaj, who usually starts a back-to-back game, was the only goalie on the ice this morning, and out there for an hour. That's not typical for a goalie who is playing that night. Vasilevskiy hasn't been great in back-to-back situations, and if Sunday's home finale ends up mattering, the 22-year-old would then be depended on to start three games in four nights. On the other hand, this isn't a normal scenario, as Sunday won't matter if Tampa Bay can't win tonight. Might as well go down with your No. 1.
Several other injured Lightning players skated this morning. Tyler Johnson, who missed last game with that nagging lower body injury, is a question mark for tonight. He certainly still looked like he wasn't right this morning, and left after 15 minutes, so it'd be surprising to see him playing.
Steven Stamkos, Ryan Callahan, J.T. Brown, Jason Garrison also skated. None are expected to play tonight.
Aside from the Lightning needing the Maple Leafs to lose both of their games this weekend (picking up no more than one point in the process), Tampa Bay needs the Islanders to net a maximum of three points in their final two games (Saturday in New Jersey, Sunday vs Ottawa). So that means any kind of loss, or one of the wins coming via shootout. The Islanders own a tiebreaker on Tampa Bay.
Get all that?