With just 17 wins from their first 35 games of the year, the Lightning are aware they’ll be fighting for a playoff spot over the second half of the season.
Which is why this upcoming stretch is massively important.
The Bolts kick off a five-game home stand tonight against Montreal — a team that’s owned them recently — and head coach Jon Cooper admitted the club can’t squander this opportunity to secure points.
“What we need to do now is [pay] attention to detail, especially in this home stand here to kick off the second half or whatever you want to call it,” Cooper said, per the Bolts’ Twitter account. “Because I’ve said this before, our margin for error now is gone. We’ve used that all up.”
Tampa Bay heads into tonight’s action sitting fourth in the Atlantic Division, three points back of Boston for the last playoff spot. In terms of the wild card, they’re even further out — seven points back of Philly — which is why there’s so much importance placed on this upcoming stretch.
Things are trending upward for the Bolts, though.
Firstly, they’ll welcome back Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat to the lineup this evening. Kucherov, the team’s leader in goals, hasn’t played since Dec. 10 and Palat, who has 13 points through 30 games, hasn’t played since Dec. 14.
Those two should be a huge help in trying to finally defeat the Habs. Montreal has won five straight against Tampa Bay, including a 3-1 win in late October at the Bell Centre.
“We owe them a few here, because they’ve taken us out the last few games,” Cooper said, per the Tampa Bay Times. “We’ll be ready for them.”