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)

Rash of injuries will require Lightning to band together

Tampa Bay Lightning Erik Condra (22) works the puck along the boards against the Calgary Flames during second period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Thursday evening (11/12/15). DIRK SHADD   |   Times  


Tampa Bay Lightning Erik Condra (22) works the puck along the boards against the Calgary Flames during second period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Thursday evening (11/12/15). DIRK SHADD | Times

NEWARK, N.J. — The Lightning will be in the playoffs when they begin Wednesday, and it could even have home-ice advantage for the first round.

The question is, will it have enough players for a full lineup?

The season has come to a you've-got-to-be-kidding moment for Tampa Bay when it comes to injuries. Having previously lost top scorer Steven Stamkos (blood clot) and top-pair defenseman Anton Stralman (fractured left leg), the Lightning may play the final two games of the regular season, including tonight against the Devils, without Victor Hedman (upper body) and Ryan Callahan (lower body).

"That's a core group of guys," center Brian Boyle said. "Guys you build your team around."

Think that's bad? Goalie Ben Bishop has been there before. So has wing Erik Condra. And the two said the Lightning could take a page from the 2012-13 Senators — dubbed the "Pesky Sens" — in surviving while short-handed. That Ottawa team, in a lockout-shortened season, lost Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Erik Karlsson (torn Achilles), star forward Jason Spezza (back surgery), starting goalie Craig Anderson (ankle) and forward Milan Michalek (knee). Yet the Senators found a way to make the playoffs as a seventh seed and win a first-round series against the Canadiens.

"Within five games, we lost three or four guys," Condra said. "Mentally, it's almost like a make-or-break. 'This season is going to go one way or another.' It took us a few games to figure it out, but we ended up coming through and making the playoffs.

"We weren't the most skilled team. But nobody wanted to play against us because we were annoying and never quit."

Condra said this Lightning team, the defending Eastern Conference champion, has more skill than the 2012-13 Senators. Tampa Bay still has the Triplets of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov, and Bishop, an Ottawa backup who has developed into a Vezina Trophy-caliber goalie after being acquired near the 2013 trade deadline. The Lightning can lock up a No. 2 playoff seed and home ice in the first round with two points in its final two games.

But how the Senators won — with a simple, structured, defensive-oriented style — is what the Lightning may need to play until its injured stars return.

"Guys came up, and we were playing a great team game," Bishop said of the Pesky Sens. "We weren't giving up too much. Everyone was doing the right thing. Sometimes … when you try to do too much, you make mistakes. Sometimes it helps to dumb the game down a bit."

The Lightning showed flashes of that style in Tuesday's 3-2 loss to the Rangers. Tampa Bay went out with a shoot-first mentality, racking up 17 of the first 19 shots and taking a 2-0 lead. Unlike Monday's 5-2 loss to the Islanders, a game in which the Lightning allowed five breakaways, it was tighter defensively until the Rangers rallied.

Tampa Bay now has little margin for error offensively, having scored two or fewer goals in four of its past six games, and three goals in the other two.

Those 2012-13 Senators, buoyed by Bishop, allowed a league-low 100 goals in 48 games. Karlsson, Michalek and Anderson were back for the playoffs. Spezza returned in the middle of a second-round loss, five-game loss to the Penguins.

Stralman is out at least through the first round, and likely longer. Stamkos, with a team-high 36 goals, is expected to miss 1-3 months after Monday's vascular surgery.

"Whenever you miss a guy like that, it's a game-changer," Bishop said. "But you've got to bring the team together here, and it's kind of one of those things where everyone has got to come together to play. We can't rely on one person to go out there and do it for us.

"We've dealt with this before, and it doesn't make it easier when it's multiple guys. I've dealt with it before, bunch of guys go down, usually a team comes together and finds ways to win each night."

Like those Pesky Sens.

Contact Joe Smith at joesmith@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

.Tonight

Lightning at Devils

When/where: 7; Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.

TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 970-AM

Key stats: The Devils are out of the playoffs and have lost three consecutive games. … The Lightning won the teams' first two meetings this season, giving up a combined one goal. … Scoring has been an issue all season for New Jersey, which entered Wednesday averaging a league-low 2.19 goals per game. … The Devils do have a world-class goalie in Cory Schneider, who is 2-2-1 with a 3.15 GAA in five career starts against Tampa Bay. … D Victor Hedman (upper body) and RW Ryan Callahan (lower body) are day to day.

Rash of injuries will require Lightning to band together 04/06/16 [Last modified: Thursday, April 7, 2016 12:17am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays journal: Blake Snell to rejoin rotation, Erasmo Ramirez heads to bullpen

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — LHP Blake Snell is rejoining the Rays' rotation, but the move has as much to do with helping the bullpen as it does with Snell's improvement during his time at Triple-A Durham.

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Erasmo Ramirez (30) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, June 21, 2017 in St. Petersburg.
  2. Rays' bullpen stars lit up in loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday it was the soft underbelly of the bullpen that let one get away from the Rays, incurring the wrath of the team's faithful followers, who wondered why the high-leverage guys weren't pitching.

    Rays closer Alex Colome, coming in with the score tied in the ninth, allows three runs in his second straight poor outing.
  3. Lightning among early suitors for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he planned to explore free agency for potential needs, which include bolstering his blue line and adding a wing or two.

  4. Roger Mooney's takeaways from Sunday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    RHP Erasmo Ramirez is not happy about moving back to the bullpen, and can you blame him? But that's the best move for the Rays now. He can fill several roles: long man, setup man, even closer in a pinch. The Rays need to settle the bullpen, and Ramirez has proven he's capable of doing that.

  5. Rays up next: at Pirates, 7:05 p.m. Tuesday, Pittsburgh

    The Heater

    Today: Off

    Up next: at Pirates, 7:05 p.m. Tuesday, PNC Park, Pittsburgh