Avalanche-Lightning Preview

BY foxsports • October 29, 2015

Tampa Bay disappeared offensively on the back half of its recent road trip, leading to disappointing results.

The Lightning are hoping Thursday night's return home against the Colorado Avalanche, who continue to struggle on both sides of special teams, will help solve their woes.

Tampa Bay (5-3-2) dropped three games on its four-game trip, including shutouts in each of the last two after it had averaged 3.4 goals in its previous eight.

Tuesday's 2-0 loss at St. Louis came in spite of a 26-24 edge in shots, which marked the first time in five games the Lightning claimed the advantage in that respect. Seventeen blocked shots also helped stymie the offense.

"When you need one (goal) you've got to find a way to get it and we're having trouble doing that," coach Jon Cooper said. "It seems like the net is shrinking a little bit and we hit a post. Teams go through this but we've had a couple of good defensive efforts."

Steven Stamkos leads the club with five goals but has none on only three shots in his last three games. He registered 19 shots in the first seven.

"It's not like we're playing poorly," Stamkos, who is without a goal in his last seven meetings with Colorado, told the team's official website. "We're getting decent opportunities…When you're in these little funks, things just don't seem to bounce your way."

Tyler Johnson's extended drought may be more concerning. He still hasn't scored despite 24 shots, the second-most on the team behind Jason Garrison's 25. His 29 goals a season ago tied for second on the club, and he was a force in the playoffs, scoring 13 times in 26 contests.

Johnson recorded a goal and two assists in his last game against Colorado on Feb. 22, and had a hat trick in the first of two career home matchups.

The Avalanche (2-5-1) are in even more disarray, totaling five goals in four straight losses after scoring 15 times in their first four - despite averaging more shots (28.8 compared to 24.5).

Gabriel Landeskog snapped a four-game goal drought after scoring four goals in his first three contests, but all five of Colorado's power plays - including a 5-on-3 for 52 seconds - were killed off in Tuesday's 4-1 loss at Florida.

"They moved the puck well and executed better than us on their power play," coach Patrick Roy said. "The players on the power play know it's not (good) enough for us to win hockey games. They have to be better."

The Avalanche also struggled to limit the opposition's power play, giving up three goals and a short-handed goal.

Colorado's four straight losses already matches its longest losing streak last season. The club hasn't dropped five in a row since Jan. 22-Feb. 4, 2012.

Backup Reto Berra had stopped 73 of 75 shots in first two starts before facing only 28 shots in Tuesday's loss. Semyon Varlamov has given up three-plus goals in four of his five starts but is 3-1-1 with a 1.79 goals-against average and one shutout in five career starts at Tampa Bay.

The Lightning have won three straight home meetings after dropping four in a row.