Preview: Lightning visit Blues in matchup of NHL’s best
TV: NBC Sports
Time: 8 p.m.
ST. LOUIS — The Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay Lightning and West-best St. Louis Blues meet on Tuesday night at Scottrade Center to start what both coaches know will be a challenging week for their respective teams.
The Lightning and Blues are tied atop the league standings with 44 points and both come into the game riding four-game winning streaks.
Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper’s team won those four games at home, and he knows the Lightning have to find a way to transfer their home success to the road, where they lost three of four games on their last trip.
Tuesday night’s game begins another four-game trip.
“We’ve done what we had to at home,” Cooper told the Tampa Bay Times. “Now we have to do it on the road, and it’s much tougher with all the travel we have to do, especially where we are here. So, we have to learn from what we did on the road before, what we have to do to prepare, but this is a good way to jump-start that.”
Cooper and the Lightning players have not forgotten the team’s last road game, a 3-2 loss at Boston on Nov. 29.
“If there was one lesson we had to learn, we learned that in Boston,” Cooper told the newspaper. “Our guys will tell you that (game) was men among boys and we were definitely not the men in that game, so we know we have a long way to go.”
Steven Stamkos told the Tampa Bay Times games like the one against the Bruins serve as a reminder of what the Lightning need to do to be successful.
“When you’re winning, a lot of stuff gets swept under the rug,” he said. “It’s nice to get that friendly reminder sometimes that it’s tough to win in this league every night and there are some really good teams out there. You get humbled like that, it makes you hungrier the next game.”
The game against the Lightning begins a busy week for the Blues, who also host Anaheim on Thursday night before a home-and-home series against the Winnipeg Jets over the weekend.
They know they won’t have forward Jaden Schwartz for those games, out for six weeks because of an ankle injury. The Blues don’t know the status of defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who missed Sunday night’s overtime win over Buffalo because of a leg injury.
“We try to be optimistic,” coach Mike Yeo said.
“This is going to be four of six for us and it’s been a tough stretch with travel and guys out of the lineup. We’ll be excited for that game, as will they.”
The Blues and Lightning played in Tampa on Oct. 14, with the Lightning posting a 2-1 victory.
“A dangerous team,” St. Louis forward Paul Stastny said of the Lightning. “For us it’s about what we do to be successful. We worry about our own game.”
One of the Blues’ strengths has been an ability to overcome injuries to several key players.
“When one guy does get hurt I think the other lines seem to step up a little more,” Stastny said. “It happens to every team. It’s a long season, you’re going to have injuries, and you can’t use it as an excuse. Whoever is in the lineup just focuses on what they have to do.”