Preview: Lightning visit Avalanche seeking seventh straight victory
TV: FOX Sports Sun
TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 8:30 p.m.
DENVER — The Tampa Lightning aim to keep their perfect December intact when they face the Colorado Avalanche Saturday night at the Pepsi Center.
In a bit of rare bad news for the Lightning, though, they’ll have to do so without veteran forward Ryan Callahan.
Callahan suffered an upper-body injury after he and Arizona Coyotes defender Oliver Ekman-Larsson got tangled up and crashed into the boards during the third period of the Lightning’s 4-1 win Thursday.
The 32-year-old winger’s right arm was in a sling after the game, according to the Tampa Bay Times. General manager Steve Yzerman told the paper Friday that Callahan is sidelined indefinitely and will be evaluated in three to four weeks.
“You feel so bad for him,” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman told the Times. “He’s battled hard through the whole year, and is such an important player for us.”
Callahan missed most of last season with a nagging hip injury but was playing well on the fourth line this season. He had six points in 29 games, and on Thursday, he had five shots and three blocked shots before leaving the game.
“I’m sick to my stomach to watch a guy work as hard as he did to come back, play so well and to have something like that,” captain Steven Stamkos told the paper.
On a better note for the Lightning, they head into Denver on a six-game winning streak and own the NHL’s best record at 23-6-2.
In the win over the Coyotes on Thursday, Nikita Kucherov scored in a third consecutive game and 21-year-old Brayden Point recorded his first career “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” — a goal, assist and a fight.
Point, a second-year center, has impressed with Tampa Bay this season. He has 30 points in 31 games.
“I’m just feeling more comfortable,” Point told the Tampa Bay Times. “The first year, you’re just trying to get your feet wet, and I didn’t know if I was staying up or going down (to the AHL). But I’m feeling more comfortable, and playing with two great linemates (Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat). They help.”
The Avalanche (15-14-2) have turned things around since their 5-2 loss to Tampa Bay on Dec. 7, winning three of their last four since their four-game slide to begin this month.
Colorado sits last in the Western Conference Central Division with 32 points.
“We know where we’re at in the standings,” Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov said after the team’s 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers on Thursday. “By the end of this month we need to be in the playoff picture. … Six or eight points out of the playoffs by the beginning of January, it’s hard to play catch-up hockey.”
The Avalanche were the worst team in the league a year ago, but have benefited from the breakout play of center Nathan MacKinnon this season.
MacKinnon had his third two-goal game of the season in the Avalanche’s 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers on Thursday. He has 35 points — 13 goals and 22 assists — in 31 games and now has 12 goals in his last 22 games.
“Nate is playing unbelievable right now,” Varlamov said. “He’s a very skilled guy and I’m glad to have him on our team.”
Colorado center Alexander Kerfoot missed his second straight game with a foot injury Thursday. Avs coach Jared Bednar said he is questionable for Saturday’s game.