The Tampa Bay Lightning have been springing leaks in the defensive zone during a three-game losing streak and it won’t get any easier when they visit the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night. The Lightning allowed 14 goals in three consecutive losses - two of them against Columbus - and the Blues have earned points in nine straight games at home (8-0-1) and all but one this season (10-1-2).
“We’ve lost a little bit of our identity,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper told reporters. “We can’t sit here and think we’re going to walk into a game and get three or four. That 2-1 mentality has got to return. It all comes down to defending, and right now we’re not defending with the passion we need to.” The good news for the Lightning is steady top-pair defenseman Anton Stralman may be ready to return after missing the last nine games. St. Louis won six of its last seven contests overall after Vladimir Tarasenko’s overtime goal rescued them in a 4-3 victory over Dallas on Monday. Forwards David Perron (eight games) and Jaden Schwartz (seven) look to extend their point streaks for the Blues, who have won five straight and are 7-1-1 in the last nine versus Tampa Bay.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, FSN Sun (Tampa Bay), FSN Midwest (St. Louis)
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (13-10-1): Leading scorer Nikita Kucherov (26 points) has been kept off the scoresheet the last two contests and Tampa Bay’s power play, which still sat third in the league entering Wednesday, is 1-for-14 in the past five. Cooper dressed seven defensemen in the 5-1 loss at Columbus on Tuesday, but center Brian Boyle played several shifts on defense in the third period. Right wing Ryan Callahan (lower-body) is expected to miss his second straight game, prompting the recall of forwards Michael Bournival and Joel Vermin from Syracuse of the American Hockey League.
ABOUT THE BLUES (13-7-3): Perron has three goals and eight assists during his streak to move into second on the team in scoring behind Tarasenko (23 points) with 16 while Schwartz warmed up with five tallies in the last seven games. Forward Alexander Steen (concussion) is on the verge of return to the lineup after missing the last six games and defenseman Joel Edmundson (upper-body) could play for the first time since Nov. 6. Forward Patrik Berglund reportedly missed practice with an undisclosed injury Wednesday and coach Ken Hitchcock told reporters “we’ll see how he feels (Thursday).”
1. St. Louis G Jake Allen is 8-0-2 with a 1.57 goals-against average and .940 save percentage at home.
2. Tampa Bay rookie F Brayden Point has posted six points in his last seven games.
3. Blues D Colton Parayko is second on the team with 64 shots, but does not have goal to go with his 12 assists.
PREDICTION: Blues 5, Lightning 2