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Crashing The Net: Bolts Search For Swagger Against True Test

The Tampa Bay Lightning (19-19-4) find themselves at a cross-roads halfway through the season. They have been plagued by injuries, humiliating losses, and sloppy play which has earned them a spot near the bottom of the division. With 40 games still left on the schedule, they have plenty of time to turn it around. Where do they start? With a back-to-back home stand this week against the Buffalo Sabres (16-15-9) and the Columbus Blue Jackets (28-8-4). Can the Lightning use this test as a way to get their groove back? Let’s find out in Crashing The Net!

Last Week:

Winnipeg Jets (20-21-3)
When: Tuesday, January 3rd – 7:30PM
Result: Loss
Score: 6-4
Shots: 36-34 TBL
Power Play: 2/7
Penalty Kill: 3/4
Key Moment: This one turned ugly for the Lightning in the second period as a three-goal onslaught by the Jets made it a 4-1 game going into the final 20 minutes. Unfortunately, that deficit would be too much for Tampa Bay to climb and they found themselves on the losing side of this matchup.

Nashville Predators (18-16-7)
When: Thursday, January 5th – 7:30PM
Result: Loss
Score: 6-1
Shots: 28-19 TBL
Power Play: 1/4
Penalty Kill: 2/3
Key Moment: Shades of Tuesday night’s game against the Jets would come to fruition here as the Lightning would surrender another three-goal second period. Nashville would then tack on two more and en empty netter in the third to make this one a true squash match.

Philadelphia Flyers (21-16-6)
When: Saturday, January 7th – 1:00PM
Result: Loss
Score: 4-2
Shots: 44-26 PHI
Power Play: 0/2
Penalty Kill: 2/2
Key Moment: The Lightning saw the challenge and decided to accept it as the mediocrity continued. They would not be scored on just three times in the second of this one, but four times. Last week saw Tampa Bay let in 12 goals in the second period, more than they usually let in during an entire week of play. The year 2017 has already been nothing but a nightmare for the boys in blue.

Pittsburgh Penguins (26-9-5)
When: Sunday, January 8th – 5:00PM
Result: Loss
Score: 6-2
Shots: 40-30 PIT
Power Play: 1/4
Penalty Kill: 2/3
Key Moment: The deciding moment here was not the second period, even though they still let in two goals, but the third period which saw them cough up four tallies to the Penguins. Completely outplayed, the Lightning lost this one 6-2 and went winless on the week for the first time this season.

Lightning Statistics From Last Week:

Games Played: 4
Wins: 0
Loses: 4
Points: 0 out of 8
Goals For: 9
Goals Allowed: 22
Power Play: 4/17 = 23.5%
Penalty Kill: 9/12 = 75.0%

Upcoming Games:

Buffalo Sabres (16-15-9)
Where: Amalie Arena, Florida
When: Thursday, January 12th – 7:30PM
Where to Watch: SunS, MSGB

The Lightning start off the short week against the Buffalo Sabres, who are just one point behind them in the standings with two games in hand. Buffalo has been hot as of late, winning three of their last four contests. Behind 2017 All-star Kyle Okposo (12G, 15A), the Sabres find themselves back  in the playoff hunt in the Atlantic Division. They have found themselves with a top ten power play, converting at a solid 22.3% on the year and showing a knack for keeping goals out of their net, as they are 8th in the NHL at goals against.

More good news for the Sabres is that their young stud Jack Eichel (8G, 6A) is back after missing most of the season with an injury. Eichel has been heating up lately and returned to his stellar form after getting a few games under his belt. The Lightning have played Buffalo only once this season, winning that game 4-1. Look for this go-around to be a bit tougher for the Bolts and serve as a test to start the week.

Columbus Blue Jackets (28-8-4)
Where: Amalie Arena, Florida
When: Friday, January 13th – 8:00PM
Where to Watch: SunS, FSOH

On a night where the Lightning will be honoring a legend in Marty St. Louis, they open their barn doors hesitantly to a team that has terrorized them (and the NHL) this season in the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Blue Jackets are the best team in the NHL at a staggering 60 points and are top five in goals, power play, and shooting percentage. Coach John Tortorella has crafted a top contender this year and have already bested the Bolts this season, with both of the meetings taking place in November. Hopefully, Tortorella’s nostalgia at seeing a player who he helped turned into a potential Hall of Famer will hinder his abilities behind the bench on Friday night, because the Lightning will need all hands on deck to topple these giants. With a team as statistically dominant as the Blue Jackets are, all the Lightning can do is play their game and come out with grit and determination to prove not only to their fans, but themselves that they are still the team we felt like they could be at the start of the season.

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