This headline format, originally conceived by Jason “The Cooler” Brough, has been a total jinx this season — the Stars, Wild, Flyers and Canucks all lost after writing — so apologies in advance to you Bolts fans out there.
But hey, call it like you see it. Tampa Bay really needs a win tonight against the Panthers.
The Lightning have lost five straight, three since ex-captain Martin St. Louis was dealt to the Rangers at the deadline, and head into tonight with 75 points, holding the first of two wild card spots in the Eastern Conference.
The Bolts are sitting in that wild card position because of their 2-6-2 record over their last 10 games, which triggered a noticeable drop in the standings. Prior to the Olympic break, Tampa Bay sat second in the Atlantic and just seven points back of Boston for top spot. Today? They’re 16 back of the Bruins and have been surpassed by both Toronto and Montreal in the division.
Reason for the slide are aplenty.
St. Louis is gone and the guy he was traded for, Ryan Callahan, is trying to adjust to a new team. Adjustments have also affected Steve Stamkos’ return to the lineup — out since Nov. 11 with a broken leg, Stamkos made his return on Mar. 6 and has gone scoreless in three games, despite playing at least 21 minutes in each.
“For me, a lot of it is still a mental thing going into certain situations, certain areas on the ice where before the injury I’m already thinking of my next play before the puck comes,’’ Stamkos explained, per the Tampa Tribune.
“Now you are thinking of what you have to do to brace yourself for contact and then make the play. Whether that’s half a second or a second, that’s a big difference in this league. So, I’m trying to get over that.”
There is positive news on the horizon, though. Hard-hitting defenseman Radko Gudas will draw back in tonight against Florida after missing the last four games with a leg injury, while veteran blueliner Sami Salo has declared himself fit after getting hurt and playing just three minutes against Phoenix on Monday.
If there’s one other good thing, it’s tonight’s opponent. Tampa Bay is 3-0-0 against the Panthers this season, outscoring ’em 16-6.