Key Lightning Players MIA
The best thing to be said about the prospects for the Tampa Bay Lightning as the postseason approaches is about the same as the prospects for too many of their players: "day to day." And the prospects for the Lightning going deep in the playoffs are more like "out indefinitely." With the comings and goings of so many players because of injuries, it's hard to read this team.
The Injury List
The latest bombshell to hit in Tampa came when star center Steven Stamkos exited a little over a week ago with a blood clot near his collarbone. The one-to-three months he's expected to be out means he can't be counted on for the playoffs.
Just before the Stamkos news, key defenseman Anton Stralman went down with a lower body injury and was listed as out indefinitely. And there's more. Winger Ryan Callahan has missed seven of the last 10 games, and another big defensive cog, Victor Hedman had to leave before Thursday's game with the New Jersey Devils. They're listed as day to day. The contributions of those four players add up to 173 points, and that's a lot of punch to have missing or limping around.
The Good News …
Needless to say, Bolts backers have been in dire need of good news. They got some Thursday when controversial young standout Jonathan Drouin returned to the ice and promptly went to work by scoring a goal in the Lightning's 4-2 win over the Devils. Drouin's spat with management over not being traded but sent down to the AHL, is apparently mended, by necessity more than anything else. Nevertheless he's back for the first time in three months to give Tampa Bay a shot at filling in some of that needed scoring.
The Lightning still have plenty of other weapons in their arsenal, with Nikita Kucherov and Tyler Johnson up front. And Ben Bishop has been sturdy all year in goal. But they're still missing much more than they might have gained with Drouin back. It looks like Tampa Bay will be paired with either Philadelphia, Detroit or Boston in the playoffs. That first-round series will probably be day to day, too. Beyond that, the prospects for the Lightning are doubtful.
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