GeoFitz4 is a writer on RawCharge.com. Follow him on Twitter @GeoFitz4.
We’ll start with Victor Hedman’s injury. How bad is it and is there any fear it will linger?
When the injury happened, and I first saw a replay while sitting in the arena, I cringed. I got sick to my stomach. It did not look good. It just screamed “torn [something]” and that it would be bad. With the prognosis coming out the day after as three to six weeks, everybody in Tampa Bay let out of sigh of relief. The shorter recovery time suggests that it was more likely a sprain than something being torn. However, maybe something is torn and he’ll be able to play on it once it heals a little bit? But either which way, there’s always a worry with knee injuries for big guys that skate well. You just never know if it’s going to impact the player when he returns. So there is certainly some fear in the back of our minds, but we remain hopeful.
With the Lightning s far ahead in the conference, has there been any thought of giving key players a rest here and there?
I don’t think that that is really Jon Cooper’s style. I think for most of the players on the roster they’re going to be playing a full slate as able. The exceptions might be for some older players like Chris Kunitz, Ryan Callahan, and Braydon Coburn to help keep them fresh. And I do think that Vasilevskiy will start taking less starts as the season goes on. Louis Domingue provides some more confidence in the depth in net and that actually leads me a little bit into the next answer…
What might the Lightning look to do at the deadline?
The team may have already made it’s most important trade of the season already in acquiring Louis Domingue back in November after the Arizona Coyotes waived him. The Lightning’s third goalie at the time, Michael Leighton, had struggled for Syracuse and the Lightning gave up basically nothing to acquire Domingue by trading Leighton and AHL veteran Tye McGinn. Domingue instantly upgraded the third goaltender spot in the organization. And he may even have a chance to overtake Peter Budaj for the back-up spot. Budaj is out for a few more weeks with a lower body injury and Domingue will have this opportunity to audition for the back-up spot. Either way, the team is going to have a hard decision to make when Budaj is back and both would need waivers to go to the minors.
Other than that, I think the most likely possibility is a right handed top-four defenseman. Mike Green is the big name that’s out there that fills that role, but I don’t think the Lightning would get full value out of acquiring him. It would move Jake Dotchin to the pressbox, but Hedman and Mikhail Sergachev already have the powerplay spots locked down and the Lightning play four forwards and one D on both power play units. The only other spot that is somewhat open would be the third line right winger spot. It’s currently occupied by Cory Conacher and he’s played well there. But… if there’s an upgrade to be had there for the right price, Yzerman has to consider it.
Steven Stamkos only has five goals in his last 17. Any concern there?
Not too much worry. The Namestnikov-Stamkos-Kucherov line was the best line in the NHL for much of the first half of the season. That line stagnated a bit though and were broken up. Stamkos hasn’t quite refound his footing since then and the Lightning have been getting less power play opportunities as well. For much of the season, he’s been feasting off of assists, not goals. Coming out of the Christmas break, he made comments about wanting to shoot more. He did that in the first game out of the break with seven shots on goal, and did raise his average from 2.88 per game to 3.1 per game after the Christmas break. Even considering that, he’s a career 16.8% shooter and has four goals in the last 35 shots. With his normal shooting percentage, he should have scored five goals in that span so it’s not far off even though it’s been a little while.
If the Lightning don’t come out of the East, it will be because….?
They go into a funk at the wrong time and hit a hot team. So much of the playoffs is about getting hot at the right time as the Nashville Predators showed us last season. The Lightning came out hot for the first time in… a long time… but have hit some rough spots over the past month or so. Perhaps this is a good time for them to be going through that so that they can re-find their game now and keep it going through the end of the season and into the playoffs. The other big worry would be an injury to Andrei Vasilevskiy for pretty obvious reasons. He’s having a Vezina caliber season and losing him would be a big blow to the Lightning’s chances.
Game #47 Preview