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Game 2 Preview: Lightning vs. Blackhawks

January 14, 2021, 11:29 PM ET [5 Comments]
Michael Stuart
Tampa Bay Lightning Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The benefit of the National Hockey League’s divisional format this year for a team like the Tampa Bay Lightning is that they get to play the Chicago Blackhawks a lot. After demolishing their 2015 Stanley Cup Final foe 5-1 on opening night, the Bolts will have the opportunity to shoot for a second straight victory against the same opponent on Friday night. The tale of the tape for this game is the same as it was last time around: Tampa *should* win.

“Should” win doesn’t mean they “will” win, though. The major x-factor heading into Friday’s tilt is how Chicago will respond to being embarrassed on night one. Pride can be a surprisingly powerful asset in sport, even for a team that is grossly outmatched on paper. A Blackhawks team looking to prove a point, combined with a Lightning team that gets a little bit complacent, provides an easy path to two points for Chicago. Tampa’s tendency to get a little bit cute with the puck when they are feeling confident, which started to creep into their play late on Wednesday, needs to stay in the dressing room. This is a winnable game, but only if the Lightning play their game.

While not much needs to change in terms of style or substance for Tampa Bay, there is expected to be one slight lineup tweak compared to Game 1. After sitting with the taxi squad in the opener for cap purposes, Tyler Johnson will make his season debut.

According to Joe Smith of The Athletic, Johnson was taking practice rushes Thursday alongside Anthony Cirelli and Alex Killorn on the second line. That spot on the second line was always penciled in as Johnson’s, but I thought Mathieu Joseph’s stellar performance in the first game might have earned him another look there. Instead, Joseph was skating with Mitchell Stephens and Pat Maroon on the fourth line at practice. Alex Volkov looks to be the man selected for popcorn duty, which isn’t really a surprise considering his performance last game.

Outside of that small change, there’s not much worth noting in advance of this contest. Everything clicked in Game 1; here’s hoping everything clicks in this one. With Jon Cooper indicating today that he assumes Tuesday’s Stanley Cup Final rematch with the Dallas Stars will be postponed due to COVID-19, this game presents a clear chance for the Lightning to head into a few days of rest with a perfect 2-0-0 record.

As always, thanks for reading.
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