The Tampa Bay Lightning will be severely shorthanded entering the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, even more so now than before. Captain and top center Steven Stamkos is already out with a blood clot in his shoulder region and now no.2 defenseman Anton Stralman is out with a broken leg. Either of the stars returning this season is not likely. The team would have to go all the way back to the SC Finals to give a Stamkos return enough time to even be a possibility and although ABC Action News’ Tom Korun reports that a Stralman return has not been ruled out, let’s be honest here, how quickly is a broken leg going to heal?
Stamkos’s absence is obviously the more pressing issue for Tampa Bay but Stralman’s injury cannot be sold short. The 29-year-old defenseman is an integral part of the Lightning’s sound blue line core that has aided G Ben Bishop’s rise to the limelight and guided the team to last year’s Finals. Stralman’s injury puts further pressure on Victor Hedman and Braden Coburn and will also shake up the chemistry the team’s defense has. The results aren’t likely to be pretty.
The NHL world was thinking that with these injuries the chance that Jonathan Drouin has so tempermentally been begging for may finally have arrived. But, to continue the Lightning’s run of bad luck, Drouin isn’t available for call-up at the present time due to a day-to-day lower body injury. The Lightning organization is undoubtedly praying that the injury stays day-to-day and doesn’t become a bigger problem because Drouin is playing as good as ever with AHL Syracuse lately, with 9 goals in his last 9 games. If Drouin recovers, his chance will have come and he the opportunity to prove his is the real deal will be his for the taking. It could also provide a much needed spark for the beleaguered Lightning, who finish their season this week with a three game road trip.
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Matthew Morris: @Flat_Manigen74