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Lightning have the hardest week of their schedule ahead ... it’ll be fun and a grind

Tampa Bay plays four games in six nights against the Islanders, Panthers, Bruins and Capitals ... oh my
DIRK SHADD   |   Times  
Tampa Bay Lightning center Anthony Cirelli (71) beats Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (40) to score shorthanded making the score 3 to 1 during third period action at Amalie Arena in Tampa Thursday evening (12/06/18).  [SHADD, DIRK  |  Tampa Bay Times]
DIRK SHADD | Times Tampa Bay Lightning center Anthony Cirelli (71) beats Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (40) to score shorthanded making the score 3 to 1 during third period action at Amalie Arena in Tampa Thursday evening (12/06/18). [SHADD, DIRK | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Dec. 8, 2019

TAMPA — Four games in six days. The Eastern Conference’s top three teams. Next week is probably the hardest one on the Lightning’s schedule.

They start with the Islanders at home on Monday, then head to Sunrise to take on the Panthers on Tuesday. The Lightning come back to Tampa to play the Bruins on Thursday and Capitals on Saturday.

Whew, that’s a week. It’s a cross between a grind and a fun challenge.

Related: MORE LIGHTNING: Carter Verhaeghe used to find his teammates surreal but he fit right in on Saturday

“You enjoy playing a good teams and that makes us better,” Tyler Johnson said. “Four games in six nights is a little tough as well. It’s just something we’re going to have to battle through mentally.”

The Islanders are another Barry Trotz-coached strong defensive team. They and the Bruins were tied for best in the league with 65 goals against going into Saturday’s games.

The Lightning lost to the Islanders 5-2 just before going to Sweden. The score didn’t quite match the not-bad-not-great game in which the Isles won the special teams battle.

The Bruins’ eight-game win streak ended with an overtime loss to Chicago on Thursday. They are still one of the hottest teams in the league and David Pastrnak might be the hottest goal scorer with 25 goals through 29 games.

Back in October, the Lightning beat the Bruins 4-3 in a shootout. It was another bad special teams game but one in which Tampa Bay dominated five-on-five play.

The Capitals lead the lead with 49 points through 31 games. John Carlson has 43 points, 15 more than the next defenseman (Colorado’s Cale Makar) going into Saturday’s games.

Last Friday, the Lightning fell to the Caps in overtime, 4-3. There really aren’t bad games between these teams. Or the Lightning and Bruins for that matter.

The Panthers might get lost on this list, but they could be the Lightning’s competition for a playoff spot, or which playoff spot. Florida is currently third in the Atlantic in points (Lightning are sixth) and second in points percentage (Lightning are third). The teams split their opening night matchups to start the season.

It’s going to be a fun week for fans — who doesn’t want to see a bunch of really good matchups all a once — and a measuring stick week for the team.

Contact Diana C. Nearhos at dnearhos@tampabay.com. Follow @dianacnearhos.

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