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Bolts begin crucial home stand, knowing margin for error is gone

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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.”

Fight video: Flyers’ Manning vs. Penguins’ Gaunce

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Breaking: the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers don’t like each other.

The stakes might be higher for the Penguins than the Flyers – aside from those who still believe Philly has a shot at a playoff run – their rivalry rarely subsides.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Sunday featured at least one fight, with Cameron Gaunce squaring off against Brandon Manning in a pretty spirited bout.

Manning isn’t shy about fighting, by the way; this was his seventh bout of the season, according to Hockey Fights.

Higher on the radar for the Penguins is the situation for Conor Sheary, who has been absent from the ice since about midway through the first period. PHT will keep an eye out for updates on what could be yet another injury for the health-challenged Pens.

Dreading the work week? Watch this dog get ‘ice time’ with puck

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Life is difficult, complex and confusing. Good thing we have dog videos.

Forgive this video being one night late, but for those of us who watch cute animal clips, time is a furry circle. Or something like that.

Anyway, this golden retriever got a little “ice time” before the Washington Capitals’ game against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday in what would end up being a 4-1 win for the Caps. It’s an excellent video featuring a top-notch, hilarious pooch.

Alternate joke: Now that is some puck retrieval.

Patrik Laine’s out sick for Jets on Sunday

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Patrik Laine and Auston Matthews are locked with identical goals (34), assists (27) and points (61) on Sunday, which is remarkable since Laine has played in 67 games versus 75 for Matthews. He won’t get a chance to beef up his numbers on Sunday, either.

It looks like the high-scoring rookie is missing the Winnipeg Jets’ contest against the Vancouver Canucks because of an illness, according to TSN’s Sara Orlesky.

The Jets are almost assured to miss the playoffs, so seeing Laine lose a chance to bolster his Calder argument adds a little extra sadness to the night.

NHL schedules hearing for Micheal Haley’s sucker-punch on Calle Jarnkrok

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The NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced a Monday hearing for San Jose Sharks tough guy Micheal Haley for his “roughing/sucker punch” on Calle Jarnkrok of the Nashville Predators.

The league didn’t specify if Haley will face a telephone or in-person hearing on Monday afternoon. They did, interestingly, use the phrase “sucker punch” in that official announcement.

Haley received a match penalty during the game. Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer was highly upset about the hit that inspired Haley’s actions.

“When you run someone from behind in a game like that, you probably deserve to get a punch in the mouth,” DeBoer told reporters.

In other bad news for the Sharks, CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz reports that Logan Couture‘s situation isn’t looking promising after he was hurt on Sunday.