The Tampa Bay Lightning will look to improve upon a mediocre home record when they face the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night.
Tampa Bay, 2-3-0 in its previous five contests at Amalie Arena, plays five of its next six at home. On the season, the Lightning are just 8-7-1 at home.
The Lightning, still trying to regain their form from last season and climb the Atlantic Division standings, received some good news Monday regarding star forward Nikita Kucherov.
The high-scoring right winger has backed up last year’s MVP campaign with a team-high 34 points through his 30 games played, but his fortunes took a turn Saturday night in a 5-2 loss to Washington.
He took a hard slap shot to the right skate from Capitals defenseman John Carlson, who won the NHL’s hardest shot contest with a 102.8 mph rocket blast last January during the skills competition at the All-Star Game.
Kucherov left the Saturday game and did not return, and Washington broke a 1-1 tie by scoring twice early in the third period, dropping Tampa Bay to 4-5-1 over its past 10 games.
“It was a lack of attention to detail in the first three minutes,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said after the loss.
Kucherov did not practice Monday, but Cooper said his three-time All-Star sniper is day-to-day and should play before Christmas.
Ottawa earned a 4-2 win on Oct. 12 in Canada’s capital in the first matchup between the clubs this season. The Senators received two goals from former Bolts forward Vladislav Namestnikov and single markers from Colin White and Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
Senators goaltender Craig Anderson is currently on the injured reserve and has been replaced by Marcus Hogberg, who may be in goal in Tampa after Anders Nilsson played Monday night in a 6-1 road loss to the Florida Panthers.
Ottawa was blitzed for five goals in the second period.
Senators center Artem Anisimov tallied his fifth goal of the season to cut the deficit to 2-1 in the middle period, but Florida’s Noel Acciari — a season-long bottom-six forward elevated to the second line — notched his first career hat trick.
Nilsson was torched for all six goals on 31 shots but played the entire contest as the Senators absorbed their third loss by at least five goals this season.
“We didn’t defend enough,” Ottawa coach D.J. Smith said. “I thought in the first period we had good energy, but they had three layups tonight. We’ve got to be harder in front of our net, and tonight we weren’t.”
Ondrej Palat and Luke Witkowski tallied for Tampa Bay in the October defeat to the Senators, but Ottawa scored three times on 33 shots against backup goalie Curtis McElhinney as the Senators notched their first win of the season.
Lightning winger Tyler Johnson has been out since getting hurt in a 7-1 home win over the San Jose Sharks on Dec. 7, but he practiced in a regular jersey on Monday and slotted in place of Kucherov on the top line.
Tampa Bay sent forward Mitchell Stephens to their AHL affiliate Syracuse Crunch on Sunday, but the Peterborough, Ontario, native made a definite impression during his four games with the club by winning 18 of 26 draws (69.2 percent) in the faceoff circle.
–Field Level Media