The playoff race is tightening up as the NHL season barrels towards the all-star break, and the Columbus Blue Jackets find themselves in a tightly-contested three-team battle for the top of the Metropolitan Division.
Despite not being a Metro battle, tonight is a true measuring stick game for Columbus as they'll face off with one of the league's best teams, the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Blue Jackets are looking to close out this road trip with a win, going 1-1-0 so far.
Tonight, they'll face what may be the most star-studded lineup in the NHL, with the Lightning relying upon players like Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman and more. It's no wonder that they have by far the best record in the NHL, with a league-high 66 points.
Panarin – Dubois – Atkinson
Bjorkstrand – Wennberg – Duclair
Robinson – Jenner – Anderson
Hannikainen – Dubinsky – Nash
Werenski – Jones
Murray – Nutivaara
Kukan – Savard
- John Tortorella is looking for his 600th win as an NHL head coach tonight against his former team. Tortorella led the Lightning to a Stanley Cup back in 2004.
- Earlier on this trip, Columbus struggled to generate offense against Curtis McElhinney of the Carolina Hurricanes. Tonight, they'll face one of the game's best netminders in Andrei Vasilevskiy. It'll take a stellar effort tonight to rattle him – which means getting high-danger chances – is Columbus up to the task as they finish out a three-game road trip?
- Nikita Kucherov may be the best offensive player in the game, currently leading the league with 69 points in 42 games – an absolutely absurd total that puts him on pace for 134 points over a full season. He's not the only lethal threat in this Bolts lineup, either, with Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point both comfortably over a point per game.