Tampa Bay Lightning
Surging Blackhawks host ailing Lightning (Jan 24, 2017)
Tampa Bay Lightning

Surging Blackhawks host ailing Lightning (Jan 24, 2017)

Published Jan. 23, 2017 8:34 p.m. ET

CHICAGO -- It never is easy for an opponent to go on the road to face the Chicago Blackhawks.

For the Tampa Bay Lightning, the challenge could be particularly tough. An illness has spread through the locker room, which could be part of the reason the Lightning (21-22-5) are winless in their last three games and stumbled to the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

Defenseman Victor Hedman missed three games last week because of the illness. Fellow defenseman Jason Garrison has not skated since Thursday because he is sick, and other players could be feeling the effects of the bug.

"It's leaking through our team and staff," coach Jon Cooper told the Tampa Bay Times.


The outlook is much happier and healthier for the Blackhawks (30-14-5), who won three games in a row and are 7-2-0 in their last nine contests. Chicago improved to 18-5-4 at home after a 4-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night.

The Blackhawks squandered a 2-0 lead before rallying with two late goals.

"We're happy with the two points," center Jonathan Toews told reporters after the game. "But obviously, it's not the only instance where we've kind of given up a one- or two-goal lead late in games. So it's something we can work on."

Toews and his teammates will try to build and protect a lead Tuesday in their first meeting against the Lightning this season. The teams will meet again in Tampa on March 27.

The matchup elicits memories of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, in which the Blackhawks ousted the Lightning in six games to win the championship. A year-and-a-half later, the Blackhawks are seeking another deep run into the playoffs as the Lightning struggle to find their identity.

"Obviously, we never want to be in the spot we're in," goaltender Ben Bishop told the Tampa Bay Times. "But at the same time, we're still in striking distance. We want to go on a run."

Bishop was yanked from his previous start, but he could return to face Chicago. He is 11-11-3 with a .905 save percentage and 2.78 goals-against average this season.

If Bishop sits, goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy will take his place. Vasilevskiy is 10-11-2 with a .907 save percentage and 2.86 GAA.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville likely will turn to Corey Crawford in net after he recorded his 200th career victory against the Canucks. Crawford is 18-10-3 with a .919 save percentage and 2.52 GAA.

Chicago's high-powered attack on offense is led by right winger Patrick Kane, who has 48 points (15 G, 33 A) in 49 games. Kane's linemate, left wing Artemi Panarin, ranks second on the team with 43 points (17 G, 26 A).

Right wing Nikita Kucherov leads the Lightning with 42 points (17 G, 25 A) in 41 games. The next best scorer is Hedman, who has 38 points (7 G, 31 A) in 45 contests.

Tampa Bay right winger J.T. Brown's status is uncertain for the game. Brown has not played since Jan. 7 because of an upper-body injury, but he returned to full-contact practice this week. He tallied two goals and two assists in 35 games before he was injured.


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