Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tampa Bay Lightning Face the Columbus Blue Jackets

The Tampa Bay Lightning will be on the road Tuesday night to face the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Blue Jackets have struggled since being moved from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference for this season. The Blue Jackets are at the bottom of a top heavy Metropolitan Division and only won five out of sixteen games in the month of November. The team has been inconsistent as of late, leading them to a 4-4-2 record in their last ten games.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have had their own fair share of problems coming into the night as well. Two weeks ago, the Lightning went on a four game west coast road trip that saw the team go 0-3-1. The last three games for the Lightning were played at home. Tampa Bay managed to win two out of three games in the short home stand. Now the Lightning pay a visit to Columbus before heading back home for a couple games later in the week. The Lightning hold a record of 4-5-1 in their last ten games.

Obviously the loss of star-center Steven Stamkos has impacted the Lightning tremendously. While the Lightning have continued their home dominance, now holding a record of 10-3-0 at home, the team is just 6-6-1 away from the Tampa Bay Times Forum. While the Lightning lost their last game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at home, head coach Jon Cooper was not too upset with his team. According to Lightning beat reporter Missy Zielinski, Cooper said, "it was just a game where the puck was unable to make it in the net." Indeed, the Lightning looked to have done everything right that night against the Penguins, but they could not get past a focused Marc-Andre Fleury. The Lightning will look to bounce back from that game tonight against a struggling Columbus team.

The Blue Jackets lost on Saturday to the Boston Bruins by a score of 3-1. The Blue Jackets do not have any notable injured players, but the team is struggling to get any traction this season. The team holds a 5-7-1 record at home, which may be an advantage for the a Lightning team that has struggled in its last few road games. Defense may be the biggest issue for the Blue Jackets this season. The team has allowed 80 goals this season, ranking them in second most for goals-allowed in the Metropolitan Division. The only team in the division that has allowed more goals is the last place New York Islanders (93).

On paper, the teams come into this game evenly matched. Both teams have had their own fair share of struggles. While the Lightning are the stronger team overall, the Blue Jackets may be able to play up to par against them because of road struggles for Tampa Bay. While the Lightning should win this game, the Blue Jackets certainly have the ability to earn a surprise win tonight.

Stats from NHL.com, Tampabaylightning.com and Columbusbluejackets.com.

Tampa Bay Lightning Game Preview by Missy Zielinski

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