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Stamkos, Injuries Burden Lightning

Posted by Webster Washington on 12/20/2015 4:07:52 AM

Hockey fans scanning the NHL standings these days may be wondering: where in the world are the Tampa Bay Lightning? Well, they’re down in Florida sweltering in Steven Stamkos trade rumors, that’s where. The star center (or winger, wherever he’s playing on a given night) is in the last year of his contract with the Lightning and is yet to re-up. Meanwhile, folks up in Canada are clamoring for him to come home, and the whole buzz has pretty-much dominated the headlines wherever the Lightning show up, particularly if it is Toronto.

Sub-Par Production

Whether or not the Stamkos talk is a burden on Tampa Bay is hard to say. It looks that way, because he certainly has had a below-par season. With just 11 goals through 32 games, he’s on pace for his lowest output since his rookie year of 2008-09. He had 43 goals last year.

But if the Lightning are going to return to the type of play that got them to the Stanley Cup finals last year, they had better move on to more pressing issues. Like the contingent of injury-prone forwards they’re constantly having to shuffle around lately. This ER triage the Bolts are enduring has forwards Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Jonathan Drouin, Cedric Paquette and Erik Condra all either on the injured reserve or day-to-day list. That lack of consistency up front may be the reason the Lightning are five rungs down the Atlantic Division ladder and clinging to wild-card hopes.

Bishop Keep ‘Em In

The Lightning are 23rd in the league in scoring, and 26th in power play percentage. About the only good thing they have going for them is the stout play of Ben Bishop between the pipes. If Bishop is in the game, so is his team. His 1.92 goals against average has given the team a chance each time out.

The Bolts just signed coach Jon Cooper to a multi-year extension of his contract. Maybe GM Steve Yzerman should go down to the locker room and give Stamkos a new deal. That and a little good health would go a long way toward getting the Tampa Bay Lightning back into playoff form.

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