Monday, April 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning faces nasty January full of road games

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Lightning will ring in the new year on the road, which is fitting.

It will be gone for most of January.

Starting Sunday in Columbus, Tampa Bay plays 13 of its next 16 games away from Amalie Arena. It does get to spend a little time at home — there’s the five-day bye week Jan. 12-16 and the three-day All-Star break Jan. 27-29 — but this is where the schedule gets really nasty.

Along with being road games, many are against divisional opponents that are chasing the Lightning in the standings. For example, Tuesday’s opponent, Toronto, is tied in points with Boston for second place in the Atlantic, eight points behind Tampa Bay.

And the Lightning’s 5-3 loss to the Flyers on Friday is another reminder about how the league’s best team is getting everyone’s best game.

RELATED: Lightning puts backup goalie Peter Budaj on IR.

"There’s no question it’s going to be a challenge," coach Jon Cooper said. "If you’re going to make the playoffs, you have to win on the road. … And we’ve done a pretty good job at it this year (11-5-1 road record).

"But now they add up. We’re going into other teams’ buildings during the dog days of the season. You have to be ready, because once the new year hits, all of a sudden (teams) start looking at the standings. Teams know where they are, and you’ve got to game games out."

Captain Steven Stamkos was right Friday when he said that with the Lightning’s sparkling 27-8-2 record, sometimes the team’s flaws get "swept under the rug." It’s easy to see the wins and forget the process.

The Lightning has issues on the penalty kill, which after two goals allowed Friday had fallen to 24th in the league (78.4 percent) entering Saturday. There have been too many games in which the goaltender — usually Andrei Vasilevskiy — has had to bail Tampa Bay out.

This is the type of month that can either shine a light on those flaws Stamkos speaks of or see the Lightning pull away from the pack.

Starry night

Expecting Stamkos to be named Atlantic Division captain this week for the Jan. 28 All-Star Game in Tampa; fan online voting ends Monday. Nikita Kucherov is a lock to make the team, as should be Vasilevskiy. Maybe Victor Hedman, too.

Cooper has all but sealed his spot behind the bench for the Atlantic team. The coach is determined by what team leads the division in points percentage at the season’s midpoint. Game No. 41 is Saturday in Ottawa.

Slap shots

• Stamkos told Fox Sports Sun during a intermission in Thursday’s game against the Canadiens that he took the Christmas break to hit the reset button on his season. His resolution was to shoot more, believing he was deferring so much to Kucherov. Stamkos has three goals in his past two games and racked up a combined 21 shot attempts. This aggressive mentality could make for a strong second half for Stamkos, who has 16 goals.

• Jonathan Drouin said all the right things in our conversation this week about his return to Tampa for the first time since being traded to Montreal last summer. He said he believed that, money aside, things could have worked long term with the Lightning, that he had patched things up with the organization and Cooper. Drouin, 22, said he regretted not being more patient with his trade request in the 2015-16 season, calling himself "young and stubborn." Another interesting tidbit was that Drouin said that, other than his parents, Ryan Callahan was his biggest influence in deciding to get involved charitably with a Montreal hospital (pledging $500,000 over the next 10 years).

• The website HockeyGraphs brought up an interesting potential trade target for the Lightning: Coyotes forward Anthony Duclair, who could be a low-risk, high-reward option in filling a need at top-nine wing. For what it’s worth, a Coyotes scout was in attendance at Friday’s Lightning game.

Still think Tampa Bay could look for an upgrade on the right side of its blue line, too. Reporter Pierre LeBrun of Canada’s TSN TV network suggested Ottawa’s Cody Ceci as an option.

• Lightning prospects are making an impact on the World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y. For Canada, defenseman Cal Foote made a highlight-reel save and forward Boris Katchouk scored in Friday’s shootout loss to the United States.

Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

Comments
Lightning Round 2 playoff tickets on sale Monday

Lightning Round 2 playoff tickets on sale Monday

Single-game tickets for the Lightning's Eastern Conference semifinal series go on sale to the general public at 1 p.m. Monday at nhl.com/lightning/tickets. The Lightning plays the winner of the Bruins-Maple Leafs series. Game 6 of that series is Mon...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Lightning has answer for Devils and David Puddy

Lightning has answer for Devils and David Puddy

You knew those who work the scoreboard for the Lightning games at Amalie Arena would have an answer Saturday during Game 5 to the Devils using David Puddy during Game 4 at the Prudential Center. Puddy meets Homer Simpson. Actually, Puddy met Terry ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Andrei Vasilevskiy and the universal language of playoff hockey

Andrei Vasilevskiy and the universal language of playoff hockey

TAMPA — As usual, Andrei Vasilevskiy didn't speak in front of the cameras after the game. He has been like that since he hit the NHL. He still isn't comfortable with his English on TV.But Vasilevskiy spoke loudly and clearly in the first-round ...
Published: 04/22/18
Lightning-Devils: Grading Tampa Bay’s clinching 3-1 victory in Game 5

Lightning-Devils: Grading Tampa Bay’s clinching 3-1 victory in Game 5

TAMPA — Closers.That's what the Lightning looked like as it closed out the New Jersey Devils in five games with a 3-1 win Saturday.Nikita Kucherov's star power blazed again, the defense controlled the game and not even Jersey goaltend...
Published: 04/21/18
Updated: 04/22/18
Maple Leafs force Game 6 with Bruins

Maple Leafs force Game 6 with Bruins

BOSTON — Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk scored 1:19 apart in the second period, and then the Maple Leafs killed off a 5-on-3 and three more power plays in a row to beat the Bruins 4-3 in Game 5 on Saturday night and avoid playoff eliminatio...
Published: 04/21/18
Lightning-Devils: How the NHL’s top offense went on the defensive

Lightning-Devils: How the NHL’s top offense went on the defensive

TAMPA — It was a couple of days after the Lightning beat the Bruins at home late in the regular season when associate coach Rick Bowness talked about how the defensive effort used in that shutout victory was the one the Lightning would need in ...
Published: 04/21/18
Rookie? Lightning D Mikhail Sergachev’s playing like a seasoned pro

Rookie? Lightning D Mikhail Sergachev’s playing like a seasoned pro

TAMPA — Pardon Mikhail Sergachev if he isn't so good at one of hockey's greatest traditions. After all, growing a Stanley Cup playoff beard isn't easy when you're still just a teenager.As he stood in the Lightning locker room Saturday evening w...
Published: 04/21/18
Roger Mooney’s takeaways from the Lightning’s first-round series

Roger Mooney’s takeaways from the Lightning’s first-round series

TAMPA — In the postseason, teams want to bank days off so they are as fresh as can be for the next round. That's why it was so important for the Lightning to close out Jersey in five. The fewer the games, the less wear and tear on the body, les...
Published: 04/21/18
Lightning stays patient, even through 0-for-5 power-play drought

Lightning stays patient, even through 0-for-5 power-play drought

TAMPA — The Lightning so dominated the second period Saturday that the Devils had more penalties (five) than shots on goal (four), and yet Tampa Bay was unable to build on a 1-0 lead as they sought to clinch the opening-round series.Nowhere was...
Published: 04/21/18
Nikita Kucherov’s goal sets Lightning playoff series scoring record

Nikita Kucherov’s goal sets Lightning playoff series scoring record

TAMPA — After clinging to a 1-0 lead for more than two periods Saturday, the Lightning got a long-awaited cushion — and ultimately the winning goal — when Nikita Kucherov scored with 7:33 left in the final period of a 3-1 victo...
Published: 04/21/18