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BREAKING: Lightning could use a win tonight

Mar 13, 2014, 1:26 PM EDT

Steven Stamkos AP

This headline format, originally conceived by Jason “The Cooler” Brough, has been a total jinx this season — the StarsWild, Flyers and Canucks all lost after writing — so apologies in advance to you Bolts fans out there.

But hey, call it like you see it. Tampa Bay really needs a win tonight against the Panthers.

The Lightning have lost five straight, three since ex-captain Martin St. Louis was dealt to the Rangers at the deadline, and head into tonight with 75 points, holding the first of two wild card spots in the Eastern Conference.

The Bolts are sitting in that wild card position because of their 2-6-2 record over their last 10 games, which triggered a noticeable drop in the standings. Prior to the Olympic break, Tampa Bay sat second in the Atlantic and just seven points back of Boston for top spot. Today? They’re 16 back of the Bruins and have been surpassed by both Toronto and Montreal in the division.

Reason for the slide are aplenty.

St. Louis is gone and the guy he was traded for, Ryan Callahan, is trying to adjust to a new team. Adjustments have also affected Steve Stamkos‘ return to the lineup — out since Nov. 11 with a broken leg, Stamkos made his return on Mar. 6 and has gone scoreless in three games, despite playing at least 21 minutes in each.

“For me, a lot of it is still a mental thing going into certain situations, certain areas on the ice where before the injury I’m already thinking of my next play before the puck comes,’’ Stamkos explained, per the Tampa Tribune.

“Now you are thinking of what you have to do to brace yourself for contact and then make the play. Whether that’s half a second or a second, that’s a big difference in this league. So, I’m trying to get over that.”

There is positive news on the horizon, though. Hard-hitting defenseman Radko Gudas will draw back in tonight against Florida after missing the last four games with a leg injury, while veteran blueliner Sami Salo has declared himself fit after getting hurt and playing just three minutes against Phoenix on Monday.

If there’s one other good thing, it’s tonight’s opponent. Tampa Bay is 3-0-0 against the Panthers this season, outscoring ’em 16-6.

  1. lowenni - Mar 13, 2014 at 1:32 PM

    Too bad St. Louis left. I think he’s going to regret it later in life, not finishing his career in Tampa. With Stamkos coming back, if St. Louis had stayed, I think Tampa could have ran with the big boys of the Eastern Conference in Boston and Pittsburgh. Great offensive team. Also, Tyler Johnson deserves some serious attention. After about 20 games he found his confidence and his play just skyrocketed. Really fun player to watch, to me he’s up there for the Calder with Trouba and MacKinnon. Tampa will be a serious team to watch in the future, with Koekkoek, Drouin, Kucherov, and others all developing.

  2. thailer35 - Mar 13, 2014 at 1:33 PM

    Why is Brough’s nickname “The Cooler”? Did I miss that one?

    • Mike Halford - Mar 13, 2014 at 1:40 PM

      Because every team he picks for “BREAKING: ___ could” use a win loses. For further reference:

  3. thailer35 - Mar 13, 2014 at 1:51 PM

    Whoops! Haha! I was thinking of a cooler like this:

    Going out to the woods with the family this weekend so I’ve got camping on the brain.

    Carry on!

  4. patthehockeyfan - Mar 13, 2014 at 2:01 PM

    “Now you are thinking of what you have to do to brace yourself for contact and then make the play.”

    That’s bad that Stamkos thinks that first, that he has to consider that first. Definitely impacts his play, and I feel bad for him. One wonders if he’ll ever get over it. I hope so, for his sake.

    BTW, The Cooler was a great movie. Anything with William H. Macy is great. Alec Baldwin was a perfect pr!ck in it.

  5. slaugin - Mar 13, 2014 at 4:25 PM

    He’s a Hockey player???He’ll get over it

  6. muttbolts91 - Mar 13, 2014 at 11:35 PM

    Jinx broken. Barely

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