Victor Hedman

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WATCH LIVE: Lightning vs. Sabres in 2019 NHL Global Series

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Friday’s Global Series matchup between the Buffalo Sabres and Tampa Bay Lightning. Coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Lightning and Sabres head to Stockholm, Sweden for a “home and home” in the NHL Global Series. Friday’s game will mark the second Global Series game this season, with the Flyers beating the Blackhawks in Prague, Czech Republic on October 4.

This is the second regular season trip overseas for both teams. The Lightning lost both of their games in Czech Republic in 2008, while the Sabres won both of their games in Finland and Germany in 2011.

This will be the 33rd regular season game contested outside North America. It will be the 12th to be played in Sweden, the most among all countries, and the 11th game in Stockholm, the most of any city. The only game to take place in Sweden outside of the capital was New Jersey’s win against Edmonton in Gothenburg in October of last season.

The Lightning have lost three of their last four games, while they gave up six goals in their only win during that stretch (7-6 OT win at New Jersey). After opening the season with eight wins in their first 10 games, the Sabres have now lost four of their last five and head to Sweden on a three-game losing streak.

While captain Steven Stamkos leads Tampa with 13 points in 13 games (5G-8A), he has just one goal in his last seven games and none in his last three. Last season’s Art Ross and Hart Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov is second on TB with 11 pts (4G-7A) but has just one goal in the last nine games.

Sabres captain Jack Eichel, who just turned 23 years old last week, continues to lead the team in scoring with 17 points in 15 games this season (7G-10A). Eichel, who finished last season with a career-high 82 points, has seen his point total increase in every season of his NHL career. He is currently on pace for 92 points this season

[COVERAGE OF LIGHTNING-SABRES BEGINS AT 2 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

WHAT: Buffalo Sabres vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
WHERE: Ericsson Globe – Stockholm, Sweden
WHEN: Friday, Nov. 8, 2 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Lightning-Sabres stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

LIGHTNING
Ondrej Palat – Steven Stamkos – Alexander Volkov
Tyler JohnsonBrayden Point – Nikita Kucherov
Alex KillornAnthony CirelliMathieu Joseph
Patrick MaroonCedric PaquetteYanni Gourde

Victor HedmanKevin Shattenkirk
Ryan McDonaghErik Cernak
Luke Schenn – Mikhail Sergachev

Starting goalie: Andrei Vasilevskiy

SABRES
Victor Olofsson – Jack Eichel – Sam Reinhart
Jeff SkinnerMarcus JohanssonVladimir Sobotka
Jimmy VeseyCasey MittelstadtConor Sheary
Zemgus GirgensonsJohan LarssonKyle Okposo

Jake McCabeRasmus Ristolainen
Brandon MontourRasmus Dahlin
Henri JokiharjuColin Miller

Starting goalie: Linus Ullmark

John Forslund and Pierre McGuire will call Friday’s matchup.

Hedman hopes to play for Tampa Bay against Sabres in Sweden

STOCKHOLM — Victor Hedman has ample motivation to get his banged-up body ready for a regular season game that feels different from any he’s played before.

Hedman was racing against the clock to recover from a lower-body injury in time not to miss a possibly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play NHL games in his native Sweden.

Although he was not directly declared fit to play, the defenseman said he was ”hopeful” to be ready for a two-game series on Friday and Saturday between his Tampa Bay Lightning and the Buffalo Sabres in the Swedish capital as part of the 2019 NHL Global Series.

”The final decision is tomorrow,” Hedman said after practice on Thursday. ”We’ll see how it goes but (I’m) very hopeful.”

Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper sounded positive.

”I’m hopeful he’ll be in tomorrow,” Cooper said.

A stalwart for Tampa Bay’s defense, Hedman missed the team’s first practice in Stockholm after arrival on Sunday after sustaining the injury on Oct. 29 against the New York Rangers, and things didn’t look good when he didn’t practice on Monday.

Cooper said it was critical for Hedman to start skating on Tuesday. And he made it, determined not just serve as a tourist guide to his teammates during the trip to his homeland as the lone Swede on the team.

”It hasn’t been easy since last week in New York. A lot of stuff has been going through your mind, it’s a lot of worries,” Hedman said. ”Obviously, I’m very happy with the progress I’ve made in the last couple of days. We’ll see what tomorrow’s gonna bring.”

His absence in the last two games was felt, with Tampa Bay allowing 11 goals.

Hedman had nine points – two goals and seven assists – in 11 games before missing games against the New Jersey Devils and the New York Islanders.

He was No. 2 pick in the 2009 draft for Tampa Bay, a year after the Lightning opened the season with two losses to the New York Rangers in in Prague.

The Norris Trophy winner as the NHL’s top defenseman in 2018 might not get another chance to play at home, despite the NHL scheduling games in Europe regularly.

It’s the third straight year – and eighth overall – that the NHL returns to Europe to try to increase its local following in hockey-mad countries including Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic.

The Philadelphia Flyers beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 in their season opener in Prague on Oct 4.

Buffalo has five Swedes, including forwards Marcus Johansson, Johan Larsson and Victor Olofsson, defenseman Rasmus Dahlin and goalie Linus Ullmark, while another one, defenseman Lawrence Pilut, was recalled for the trip from the Rochester Americans.

”You never even dream about that, playing an NHL game in Sweden and having all your family and friends there,” Johansson said. He played in Gothenburg, Sweden, for New Jersey last season against the Edmonton Oilers.

”I feel very fortunate to have done it and even more fortunate to get to do it again,” he said. ”It’s just something that doesn’t happen very often. It’s very special. I don’t think the guys over here get it. They play close to home a lot, but we don’t really get the chance to do it.”

Of the two teams, Buffalo, surprisingly, has been off to a stronger start this season.

Under new coach Ralph Krueger, who took over in the midst of an eight-season playoff drought – the NHL’s longest active streak – the Sabres opened with an 8-1-1 record to match their best start since 2009-10 and lead the Eastern Conference.

However, they are 1-3-1 and have been outscored 15-7 since.

”We’re expecting a real high-level battle from both teams,” Krueger said. ”Tampa’s certainly feeling the same thing as we are. That was our primary focus here. … Let’s use this space to really show the best Sabres hockey possible this weekend.”

The Lightning (6-5-2) are far short of last season’s standard, when Tampa Bay dominated the regular season and tied the NHL record with 62 wins.

”We’re staying positive here,” Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos said. ”We realize that with the group we have we’re going to continue to work hard. Hopefully, a trip like this can even bring us closer together as a group and maybe help us moving forward.”

Lightning look to grow game, themselves in Sweden

The Tampa Bay Lightning have not performed at a peak level to start the 2019-20 NHL season and a trip overseas might help them solve a few of their problems.

The Bolts will participate in the NHL Global Series and will play in back-to-back games against a divisional opponent, the Buffalo Sabres in Stockholm, Sweden starting Friday (2 p.m. ET; NBCSN).

“Obviously it’s something I’ve never been a part of,” forward Anthony Cirelli said. “To be able go to Sweden, somewhere I have never been, and see the fans down there, and play some hockey games is pretty cool, pretty special. It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

General manager Julien Brisebois has been a part of a few European adventures throughout his experience working in a front office. During his time with the Hamilton Bulldogs, his team went to Scotland for training camp one year. Additionally, while overseeing the Syracuse Crunch organization (Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate), the club went to France.

“It’s a great experience, it kind of broadens your horizons,” Brisebois told NBC Sports. “It’s a great opportunity for some team bonding, spending some time as a group in a new environment and I know Sweden has a huge base of hockey fans and I am sure it’s going to be a rocking building in Stockholm.”

The Lightning will also have a familiar tour guide in Victor Hedman. The alternate captain and defenseman grew up approximately six hours north of Stockholm in Ornskoldsvik.

“Victor is going to kind of be our social director for the players while we are over there,” Brisebois said. “We have a few activities with our fans as we have a number of fans traveling over. Most of the other social activities including our last night in Stockholm, on a Saturday night, I think Victor is in charge of those plans.”

Hedman missed the previous two games before the trip with a lower-body injury and is hopeful he will get the opportunity to play an NHL game in front of Swedish fans.

“Growing up, I didn’t have the opportunity to see the NHL as much as kids can nowadays,” Hedman told NHL.com. “Both TV and obviously us coming over [are] going to help promote them and even more kids, hopefully, can dream of becoming an NHL player. I’m just looking forward to going back there, seeing kids and friends and family in the stands. Hopefully we can make their dreams come true watching an NHL game.”

Aside from growing the game internationally, the Lightning have some growth of their own to do in-house.

“Lots to work on,” Brayden Point said of the team’s sluggish start. “There are definitely some positives we can take from the start of the season, but there are things we need to be better at and things we need to work on. Hopefully this week [in Sweden] we can address some of those things in practice and keep getting better every day.”

From the start of last year’s regular season, the Lightning’s offense clicked on all cylinders and scored timely goals when it mattered most. This year, consistency has been an issue as the team has put forth only a couple of complete 60-minute efforts during a 6-5-2 start.

“That’s when frustration sets in. When you are working so hard and ‘breaks aren’t going your way’”, Lightning coach Jon Cooper said after the 5-2 loss to the Islanders. “Eventually with the skill set we have up front, we will score some goals.”

While the Lightning understand the importance of promoting the sport and taking advantage of a great opportunity to play in an exotic destination, the top priority remains intact.

“Ultimately this is a business trip for us,” Brisebois said. “There are four points at stake, we need to go out there and get the job done on the ice.”

Devils blow yet another 2-goal lead at home in crazy loss to Lightning

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After an ugly loss to the New York Rangers on Tuesday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning were able to bounce back 24 hours later and pick up two points in a wild 7-6 overtime win against the New Jersey Devils.

Even with the win they still looked to only be a fraction of the team that rolled through the regular season a year ago.

Here are three takeaways from Wednesday’s game.

1. Something still seems off with the Lightning.  Yes, they are dealing with some injury issues right now (Brayden Point and Anthony Cirelli played, but have been banged up; Victor Hedman was out on Wednesday) and playing the second half of a back-to-back against a rested opponent is always a tough ask, but the Lightning were very fortunate to get two points out of this game. They gave up way too many odd-man rushes, they were again crushed in shot attempts (a disturbing trend for this team all season), and they gave up six goals. Lightning coach Jon Cooper thought the team needed to face a little more adversity during the regular season to get them ready for the playoffs, but he probably did not want to see them play as poorly as they have for such a significant part of the season at the start. Something is not quite right with this team yet.

2. The Devils still can not hold leads. When Sami Vatanen scored just one minute into the third period he gave the Devils a 5-3 lead with 19 minutes to play in regulation. An NHL team should be able to finish that out and get the two points in regulation more often than not. Instead, the Devils surrendered three consecutive goals and needed a Kyle Palmieri tally with seven seconds to play in regulation (his third goal of the game) to send the game to overtime. As an isolated game you can maybe let that sort of third period performance slide. Sometimes weird things happen in hockey, sometimes you fall asleep and let another team get back in a game. This is not an isolated game for this Devils team. Wednesday night was their seventh home game of the season, and it was already the fourth time in those games (and the second game in a row) that they LOST after holding a two-goal lead at some point in the game. In two of those games they had leads of at least three goals (including one four-goal lead). That is unacceptable and a bad sign for a team (and coach and general manager) that desperately needs to make the playoffs this season. The Devils are now 2-6-2 on the season.

3. This game was great to watch — unless you are a coach. The Lightning may not be where they want to be yet and the Devils can’t seem to get out of their own way at home, but the good news is that combination produced a whale of a game for everyone that isn’t John Hynes or Jon Cooper. Anytime you have 13 goals, a hat trick, a frantic third period rally, a game-tying goal in the final 10 seconds, and an overtime winner you have some pretty great theatre on your hands. NHL coaches hate games with so little structure and defensive play, but you know what? As a neutral third-party viewer it was a heck of a lot of fun to watch. More games like that, please!

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Rangers win on rough night for Lightning

For a while, it looked like the Tampa Bay Lightning would author the dreaded “costly win,” as they managed a 1-0 first period lead while seeing Victor Hedman and Patrick Maroon leave the game (and not return) with early injuries.

The New York Rangers were determined to make it a costly loss, instead, beating the Lightning with an impressive 4-1 effort.

Here are some takeaways from a hard-working win by this young Rangers team.

The costly part

After seeing a historic regular season be left in smoldering ruins thanks to a first-round sweep by the Blue Jackets, Lightning coach Jon Cooper wondered if the team wasn’t ready for adversity. Maybe this is a “be careful what you wish for” situation.

Again, Hedman and Maroon were injured on Tuesday. It’s unclear how Hedman got hurt (other than it’s a lower-body issue), while Maroon was injured after fighting with one of the NHL’s last remaining enforcers, Micheal Haley.

The Bolts were already a little banged up to begin with, as Anthony Cirelli missed the game, and Brayden Point was a game-time decision. The Lightning have to hope that Hedman’s new issue is a minor one, as they struggled mightily without him late in 2018-19, including that playoff plummet.

Of course, things weren’t perfect for the Rangers, as they won without star center Mika Zibanejad.

A nice all-around effort by New York

The only goal the Rangers allowed was partially due to the Lightning managing a very long stretch in the attacking zone, and partially based on a bad line change.

But aside from that, they managed to play a strong all-around game, bouncing back from a humbling 7-4 loss against the Bruins. Via Natural Stat Trick, the Rangers generated 11 high-danger chances at 5-on-5 while only allowing five by the Lightning.

It must be heartening that both Kaapo Kakko and Adam Fox scored goals on Tuesday. The kids will have their growing pains, but they could be alright.

Also: Ryan Strome now has a three-game multi-point streak after scoring a goal and an assist, and his overall point streak is at five games (three goals, five assists for eight points).

Great goaltending

This was a low-scoring affair until the Rangers really started to break through, in part because of sharp goaltending.

Alexandar Georgiev grabbed the win, stopping 29 out of 30 shots. Andrei Vasilevskiy couldn’t grab the W, yet he was strong, making 38 out of 41 saves.

The Rangers face an uphill battle at 4-5-1, but nights like Tuesday strengthen the argument that they’re making some strides in the right direction. Now at 5-4-2, it’s clear that the Lightning have almost as much ground to cover.

MORE:
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Stanley Cup picks.
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.