Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Injuries keep Lightning limping into Rangers game

TAMPA — That the Lightning is struggling to score is tough enough.

But now, due to a rash of injuries, Tampa Bay is turning into AHL Syracuse South.

With veteran wing Ryan Callahan (lower body) the latest to succumb to injury, the Lightning could be without five regular forwards in tonight matchup with the red-hot Rangers, who are going for a club-record-tying 10th consecutive win and looking for revenge for their loss to the Lightning in last season's Eastern Conference final.

"It's a big game for us," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "I expect our guys to be highly motivated and ready to go."

Lightning center Brian Boyle said the team will miss "big parts of our club." Ondrej Palat (lower body) was already out three to five weeks. Coach Jon Cooper said Wednesday that Tyler Johnson (upper body) and Cedric Paquette (upper body) won't play, and Jonathan Drouin (undisclosed) and Callahan "most likely" would be out, too. The Lightning, which has lost nine of its past 12, called up a forward, Joel Vermin, 23, who could make his NHL debut tonight.

"We've got a tough task ahead of us, especially with all the injuries we have," Cooper said. "But we've been holding our own. As a coach, and a staff, you look to see, 'Are we doing the right things?' And we are. Unfortunately, I don't know why the pucks haven't gone in. But they eventually will. It's not going to stay like this."

The Lightning hopes not. Tampa Bay has scored one or no goals in eight of its past 12 games, including four shutouts, the latest Monday's 1-0 loss to the Panthers. Without Johnson, Paquette and Drouin on Monday, the Lightning played arguably its most complete game, as callups Jonathan Marchessault, Mike Blunden and Matt Taormina played well. But it didn't score, and things won't get any easier facing a stingy Rangers team that allows an average 1.72 goals per game, lowest in the league entered Wednesday.

"The onus is on everyone," Boyle said. "Chances are good, playing the right way is good, but that should be automatic. Now it's time to produce."

Expect the Lightning to lean heavily on its new top line — Vladislav Namestnikov, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov — which was very dangerous Monday, racking up a combined 11 shots. Namestnikov logged a career-high 20 minutes, 39 seconds of playing time, and Stamkos (22:50) and Kucherov (23:32) played season highs. Cooper said part of that was he knew the team would be off Tuesday but said the three "earned the ice."

Marchessault had three shots in 9:11, Blunden four hits in 5:24. Vermin likely will be eased in. But now would be a good time for Alex Killorn, two goals in 19 games, and Valtteri Filppula, one in 20, to produce.

"Sometimes when your big guys go down, other guys step up and take roles," wing Erik Condra said. "I've seen it before with other teams where you had three, four of our stars go down, everyone picks it up. You're able to play more of a team game. Guys play better in more minutes.

"You never know what can happen. Obviously it hurts having some of these skilled guys out, but adversity can make you stronger sometimes."

This will be the teams' first meeting since the Eastern Conference final, when the Lightning beat the Rangers in seven games. Cooper said the Rangers have "found their stride" and hopes the Lightning will soon, too, considering it faces a daunting task, with games against the Ducks, Kings, Capitals and Islanders following before a West Coast trip.

"Is our record (8-9-3) ideal? It is not," Cooper said. "Is it where we expected? No. Do I feel we've left a ton of points on the board in the first 20 games? We do. If this was Game 65, there would be a little bit of worry. It's Game 20, lot of season left. I like the way we're progressing. Just got to keep it going."

Contact Joe Smith at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

.Tonight

Lightning vs. Rangers

When/where: 7:30; Amalie Arena

TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 970-AM

Key stats: The Rangers hope to tie a franchise record with 10 consecutive wins, a streak last done Jan. 19-Feb. 10, 1973. … New York hasn't been dominant but has found ways to win, buoyed by sparkling goaltending by Henrik Lundqvist (1.69 goals-against average) and backup Antti Raanta (1.25). … The Rangers entered Wednesday ranked fourth in goals per game (3.11), led by forward Mats Zuccarello, who has five goals and seven assists in the past eight games. … Lightning G Ben Bishop, expected to start, is 8-0-0 with a 1.49 GAA in eight regular-season games against the Rangers, not to mention his two shutouts in the playoffs last season.

Injuries keep Lightning limping into Rangers game 11/18/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 18, 2015 10:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. NFL Week 7: What we learned

    Bucs

    Are the Purple People Eaters back in Minnesota? The Vikings sacked Joe Flacco five times and held the Ravens to 208 total yards in a 24-16 home victory, their third straight win. QB Case Keenum looked ordinary with a 67.7 passer rating after completing 20-of-31 for 188 yards and an interception. Kai Forbath …

    Trainers, top, check Cleveland Browns tackle Joe Thomas after Thomas was hurt in the second half of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) OHTD122
  2. Bills' comeback against Bucs a win for the process

    Bucs

    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — It hasn't taken Sean McDermott long to understand how to play to his base. Asked if the Bills had "gotten away with one" Sunday, the first-year coach gushed about his team reflecting the character of the town.

    Under first-year coach Sean McDermott, the Bills are 3-0 at home for the first time in six years. “I love playing here,” he says.
  3. No. 18 UCF closes in on USF, which drops to No. 17

    College

    USF remained ahead of UCF in the Associated Press Top 25 poll released Sunday — just barely.

  4. Tampa's Lance McCullers shows killer instinct in pitching Astros to World Series

    Ml

    HOUSTON — It felt like the beginning on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park, the arrival of a new force on the World Series stage. The Astros are back, for the first time in a dozen years, and they want to stay a while.

    Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers (43) throwing in the fifth inning of the game between the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, July 12, 2015.
  5. Jones: Where are the difference-makers on the Bucs defense?

    Bucs

    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — They can't tackle. They can't cover. They can't pressure the quarterback, let alone sack him.

    Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) scrambles past Bucs defensive tackle Clinton McDonald (98) during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]