Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Tuesday, Dec. 8, 7:30 p.m.
Season Series: Tampa Leads 1-0
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Thursday, Dec. 10, 7:30 p.m.
Season Series: Tampa Leads 1-0
The Tampa Bay Lightning return to home ice on Tuesday night after doing something on Saturday that they didn’t do all of December: Lose a game in regulation.
Tampa finished the month of December with a best in franchise history 13-0-1 mark and registered at least a point in 16 straight games before falling to San Jose 5-2.
“At some point, things aren’t going to go your way,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said after the loss at San Jose. “Guys gave it everything they had, and tonight wasn’t our night. For 16 games, it was our night. Tonight, it wasn’t.”
Despite the loss, Tampa did finish its swing through California with a 2-1 record, beginning the trip with a 2-1 overtime win in Anaheim before defeating the Los Angeles Kings 6-2.
The Tampa Bay Lightning return home with 66 points in the standings thanks to a 32-8-2 record. Those 66 points are 10 better than anyone else in the league, and Tampa remains the only team in the NHL with single-digit losses.
Still intact is Tampa’s seven-game winning streak on home ice, which it will put on the line Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Lightning will follow that up with a contest against the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday night before heading back out on the road.
About the Tampa Bay Lightning
Who’s Hot: Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos will make a return trip to San Jose later this month after earning selections to the NHL All-Star Game. Kucherov was named the NHL Player of the Month in December, topping the NHL with 21 assists and 30 points in 14 outings, averaging 2.14 points per game. He also set Tampa Bay records for assists and points in a single month, and became the first NHL player to register 30-plus points in any calendar month since Jaromir Jagr achieved the feat with the Pittsburgh Penguins in March 2001. If it weren’t for Kucherov, Stamkos may have had a shot at player of the month honors after registering 21 points in December (14 goals, 7 assists). The New Year has seen Stamkos pick up where he left off in December, as he has a goal and three assists to begin 2019.
Who’s Not: Mikhail Sergachev finally found the back of the net in San Jose after not scoring in his first 39 games of the season. Sergachev had 10 goals last season, but found himself sitting out a couple games during the past month as a healthy scratch.
About the Blue Jackets
Columbus makes its way to Tampa after a 4-3 overtime win at Florida in its last outing. The Blue Jackets carry a 24-14-3 record with them and have played better on the road this season than at home. Columbus’ 51 points are good for third in the Metro Division and puts the team only three points behind division-leading Washington. Columbus defenseman Seth Jones comes into Tuesday night’s contest riding a five-game point streak, which includes the game-winner against the Panthers on Saturday night. Jones scored 18 seconds into the extra frame, tallying his seventh overtime regular-season winner since the 2013-14 season. That goal ties Jones for the most overtime winners among all defensemen throughout the last six seasons.
Artemi Panarin leads the Blue Jackets with 45 points overall, while Cam Atkinson is tops on the team – and tied for 10th in the league – with 24 goals. Atkinson, however, has been held without a point on Columbus’ current road trip.
About the Hurricanes
Winners of four in a row, the Carolina Hurricanes will look to continue their charge up the Eastern Conference ladder. The Hurricanes enter the week seven points out of the second wild card spot in the east, compiling a 19-17-5 overall record.
To make a playoff run, the Hurricanes will have to start putting pucks in the back of the net. Carolina’s 108 goals are better than only two other teams in the NHL this season. By way of comparison, Tampa Bay has a league-leading 176 goals.
Carolina did show some signs of offensive life in its last outing, a 5-4 win against Ottawa. Sebastian Aho had a pair of assists in that game and leads Carolina with 45 points this year (16 goals, 29 assists).
Curtis McElhinney will give the Bolts all they can handle from his spot between the pipes. The Carolina goaltender ranks second in the league this season with a 2.20 goals against average, has captured a win in his last two outings and has not given up more than two goals in his last three games.
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Tampa will make a quick swing through New York with back-to-back games against the Buffalo Sabers and New York Islanders Jan. 12 and 13 before heading to Dallas to take on the Stars Jan. 15. The Bolts return home for games against Toronto (Jan. 17) and San Jose (Jan. 19) before taking a week off.