Lightning eager to rebound from missing playoffs
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
LAST SEASON: 42-30-10, 94 points. 5th place Atlantic Division.
COACH: Jon Cooper (fourth full season).
ADDED: F Chris Kunitz, D Dan Girardi, D Mikhail Sergachez
LOST: F Jonathan Drouin, D Jason Garrison
PLAYER TO WATCH: C Steven Stamkos returns from a knee injury that limited the two-time Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy winner to 17 games and a career-low nine goals last season, when the Lightning missed the playoffs after reaching the Stanley Cup Final and Eastern Conference finals the previous two years. Even though the four-time All-Star is entering his 10th NHL season, he’s just 27 years old. And if healthy, he’s confident he will perform at a high level.
OUTLOOK: Despite missing the playoffs last season, there’s no reason to believe the Lightning is in a downward spiral. With young goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, forwards Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat, defenseman Victor Hedman and center Tyler Johnson leading the way, the team nearly overcame a slow start to squeeze into the postseason last spring. The return of Stamkos and forward Ryan Callahan, another veteran who missed most of last season because of injury, plus the offseason acquisition of Mikhail Sergachez and veterans Chris Kunitz and Dan Girardi could elevate Tampa Bay back among the top teams in the East.
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