Steven Stamkos

Stamkos sees tonight’s game vs. Bruins as key test

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For months the Lightning eagerly awaited the return of Steven Stamkos. As it turned out, he came back at a dire time for Tampa Bay.

The team honored former captain Martin St. Louis’ request to be traded and have won just three of its last 11 games. The Lightning’s once comfortable hold on a playoff spot has been reduced to four points.

Stamkos couldn’t save them when they played the NHL-worst Buffalo Sabres in his first game back on Thursday. Now Tampa Bay has to face the Atlantic Division-leading Boston Bruins tonight.

“It doesn’t get much tougher than Boston coming in,” Stamkos said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “They’ve had our number lately. They’re extremely physical defensive team that can pounce on any mistakes that you make. This is a true character test for our team right now.”

As Stamkos touched on, the Bruins have a 3-0 series record against Tampa Bay in 2013-14. The Lightning’s struggles against Boston extend far beyond that though as they haven’t beaten them since March 13, 2012.

Maybe that means they’re due. Either way, they have to stop the bleeding before they’re reduced to playing catch up with mere weeks remaining.

Report: Bruins had deal in place for Edler, but Canucks blew it

Alex Edler

Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis has had a rough few days and if the latest report is true, perceptions won’t be getting any better.

Fluto Shinzawa of The Boston Globe reports the Canucks had a deal set to go with the Boston Bruins on trade deadline day that would’ve sent Alex Edler to the Bruins, but there was a hangup:

They were waiting for the Canucks to deal Ryan Kesler to Pittsburgh first.

As we know, that never happened. The Penguins’ deal for Kesler was reportedly for Brandon Sutter and draft picks, but the two sides couldn’t agree. According to Shinzawa, the Bruins were set to send either Ryan Spooner or Alexander Khoklachev and Matt Bartkowski to Vancouver for Edler.

If that deal sounds familiar, it’s essentially the same package they put together to try and land Jarome Iginla last season, a deal they were beat out for by the Penguins.

As it was, Shinzawa said the Bruins got Philadelphia to eat a lot of money on the Andrej Meszaros deal because they were looking to save cap space to acquire Edler. The Flyers have to be excited they did that now.

Gillis said at the conclusion of deadline day that they entertained many offers but none met their needs. Instead, the only deal the Canucks got done was the out-of-the-blue Roberto Luongo trade to Florida that signaled they were ready to blow things up and start over.

Instead, they’ve got a (likely) grumpy Kesler and now Edler stuck on a team that looks completely deflated. A 6-1 loss to Dallas last night showed that off.

If the Canucks can’t turn things around and crash into the postseason, it sets up the NHL Draft as their next opportunity to get things done. It’s never dull in Vancouver.

Holtby gets start versus Bruins, with Halak lurking

Braden Holtby

The day after getting pulled halfway through a 6-4 loss to Philadelphia, Braden Holtby will get another start in goal for the Capitals, this one tonight in Boston against the Bruins.

It’s a decision by coach Adam Oates that took some by surprise, especially given Washington’s acquisition of Jaroslav Halak yesterday. The Caps are in a desperate fight to make the playoffs, and currently they’re on the outside looking in.

“Hopefully we play better in front of Braden,” Oates said, per the Washington Post. “He had a good game [in Boston] a few days ago. The team played pretty solid that game as well. Hopefully we can draw on that and the second half of last night and have a good game.”

The Holtby-or-Halak storyline should be an interesting one to follow down the stretch. The fact the Caps haven’t missed the playoffs since 2007 will only add to the drama.

Related: Sabres say Neuvirth needs to ‘feel some love again’