Red Wings-Lightning Preview
It's uncertain if goaltender Ben Bishop and second-leading scorer Valtteri Filppula will be available when the host Lightning try to avoid a third straight defeat Saturday night by continuing their season success against the surging Detroit Red Wings.
Tampa Bay (32-20-5) learned this week that Stamkos won't return from a broken leg suffered Nov. 11 in time for this contest or the Sochi Olympics.
"He needs to go on an island somewhere and sip on Mai Tai's and gather his thoughts, that's what he needs to do," coach Jon Cooper said.
Adding to the Lightning's health issues, Bishop left Thursday's 4-1 loss to Toronto with an upper-body injury and Filppula departed with a lower-body injury. If Bishop is unable to play, Cedrick Desjardins could be in net after allowing two goals on 13 shots in relief in his season debut.
Though Tampa Bay is second in the Atlantic Division and third in the Eastern Conference, it's dropped four of five and is one point ahead of division foes Montreal and Toronto.
"The last week and a half (has been tough)," Cooper said. "I don't mind where we are in the standings. We kind of built a bulge in the standings, point-wise, and now we've lost some of it. But in saying that, I'd rather be where we are right now than where some other teams are."
The Lightning have scored once in each of the last two games and twice two other times in the last five.
"Are we hitting the panic button? No," veteran Martin St. Louis told the NHL's official website. "We had (34) shots (Thursday); I'd be concerned if we had 15 shots on goal."
St. Louis, who will take Stamkos' spot on Team Canada, doesn't have a goal in eight games but recorded his sixth assist over the same span Thursday.
Ex-Red Wing Filppula missed last Saturday's 2-1 overtime win at Montreal with a lower-body injury, but returned to score in a 2-1 loss at Minnesota on Tuesday.
The Lightning won all three meetings with Detroit (26-19-12) this season despite Filppula managing one assist. Bishop has limited the Red Wings to three goals in those games.
Detroit, however, has totaled 27 during its current 5-1-2 stretch. Gustav Nyquist scored his ninth goal in nine games to lead the Red Wings to a second straight victory Thursday, 3-1 at Florida.
"We're gaining some confidence here and putting a good stretch together," veteran Daniel Alfredsson said. "We need one good effort here before the break to put ourselves in a better situation."
Nyquist has nine goals with five assists in 10 games.
Teammate Pavel Datsyuk was held off the scoresheet Thursday in his return after missing 14 games with a lower-body injury. He didn't have a point in the previous three meetings with Tampa Bay.
U.S. Olympian Jimmy Howard has allowed one goal in his past two games. He was 3-0-0 with a 1.33 goals-against average against the Lightning before a 3-2 overtime defeat to them Nov. 9.