Game 18 Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning @ Montreal Canadiens

With one fell swoop — well, collision with a goal post — the run of mostly good fortune for the Tampa Bay Lightning (12-5-0, 24 PTS) in the early stages of this season came to a terrible and swift end with the snapping of Steven Stamkos’ tibia in yesterday’s loss, another agonizing shutout at the hands of Tuuka Rask and the Boston Bruins, who now account for three of the Lightning’s five losses to date. Keith Aulie and Sami Salo were also injured in the match, necessitating the recall of J.T. Brown and Dmitry Korobov.

The loss of Stamkos, who, with 14 goals, had double the nearest individual total (St. Louis) and accounted for 27% of all goals scored by the Bolts at the time of his injury, certainly seems catastrophic for a club that, even with him in the lineup, had trouble generating much more in the way of shot attempts, per 60 minutes played (5v5, 5v5 “Close”), than the offensively-starved and dysfunctional Buffalo Sabres.

It may be tempting to see Stamkos’ injury as a harbinger of doom for the Lightning’s season but there is precious little time for Lightning players and staff to feel sorry for themselves. Tampa Bay is set to play its third road game in four days tonight against the Montreal Canadiens (9-8-1, 19 PTS), which secured a win on Sunday over the course of its latest match after capitalizing twice during a late surge in the second period to pull ahead of the New York Islanders for good.

The Bleu, Blanc et Rouge, after winning five of its first seven games, is currently middling at just a game over .500 and just 4-5-1 in its last ten contests. It has to be altogether disappointing — though the season is still in its nebulous stages — for general manager (and original Bolt) Marc Bergevin to see his club, which rebounded from missing the playoffs in 2011-2012 to clinch the second-best record in the Eastern Conference during the lockout-shortened season earlier this year, in this spot and he hasn’t exactly been subtle with his frustration.

Montreal is built, much like Boston, from the net out but despite the fact that the Canadiens have given up 2 or fewer goals in ten games (through the end of October, this was happening three out of every four matches) and, no matter that, whichever which way you slice it (all situations, 5v5, 5v5 Close), the Canadiens are one of the top clubs at goal-suppression, their possession game has regressed substantially since the lofty heights it achieved in the small sample of the first few games of the season. Montreal, among the league leaders last season, is presently one of the worst offenders in terms of shots allowed and attempts surrendered and is well off its mark from last season in both aspects.

That has to change for a club leaning heavily on its prized rearguard, a couple of second-year forwards to carry the load offensively. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have the still-young but very seasoned Carey Price backstopping you most nights with Peter Budaj making the most of his limited opportunities in net.

With a quick jaunt home to take on the mighty-looking Ducks before a daunting, four game road trip out West, the Lightning snagging two points tonight would be, well, rather ideal as there’s no telling how chewed up it will be pulling back into Tampa.

At any rate, if Brown and Korobov are to see game action, here’s, courtesy of sister site Bolt Prospects, a bit of what to expect from each:

Brown has exceptional speed, above average skill, and willingness to stick his nose in on the forecheck despite possessing a slightly built frame…Brown’s selection may mean that Alex Killorn will slide over to center and also signals that Jon Cooper may choose a more defensive-minded, two-way approach to dealing with the team’s post-Stamkos injury reality…Prior to joining the Lightning organization, the Belarusian Korobov gained a significant amount of experience playing for Dinamo Minsk in Russia’s KHL. Last year, Korobov played on the top-two pairings for Syracuse for much of the season, and with Syracuse’s youth movement along the blueline he’s taken on an even greater role this year with the Crunch. Standing at 6’3″ 230 lbs, Korobov’s most obvious assets are his size and strength. He does not shy away from the physical game and does enjoy pursuing the big hit.

NOTES

Season Series

TIED 0-0
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Rosters

LIGHTNING CANADIENS
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STATPACK

 

Team

TOI, POSSESSION & SCORING TOTALS
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POSSESSION & SCORING RATES
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POSSESSION, SCORING & SHOOTING PERCENTAGES
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Special Teams

POWER PLAY
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PENALTY KILL
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Goaltending

ON-ICE TOTALS
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ON-ICE RATES
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ON-ICE PERCENTAGES
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Scoring

LIGHTNING
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CANADIENS
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Team stats cited from Extra Skater.

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