It was a good news, bad news type of night for the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday.
The good news was they picked up a much-needed two points with a 6-3 win over the Calgary Flames to snap what had been a three-game losing streak and give them just their third win in the past 11 games.
The bad news was they lost two more forwards to injury — one before the game, and another one during it.
Making matters worse, they also lost forward Ondrej Palat during the game due to an undisclosed injury. He played just 9:04 before exiting in the second period and not returning. Palat has been off to a slow start this season with only four goals and nine assists in 30 games, but he is still one of their best forwards. And right now they can not afford to lose any more forwards.
Coach Jon Cooper had no update on Palat or Kucherov’s status after the game only to say both will be evaluated on Thursday.
Stamkos, Kucherov and Palat were three of the Lightning’s top-four scorers from a year ago. That would obviously be a significant problem if the latter two have to miss any additional time.
Following Wednesday’s results around the league the Lightning enter Thursday sitting three points out of a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division, currently trailing the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators.
Even though it is only the middle of December it is not too soon to start keeping track of those point deficits in the playoff races. Last season no team in the Eastern Conference that was more than four points out of a playoff spot on Dec. 15 managed to make the playoffs. That means their path to the postseason almost certainly runs through the division because they are currently seven points out of a Wild Card spot thanks to the fact nobody in the Metropolitan Division will lose a game.