Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Los Angeles Kings Pick & Prediction JANUARY 9th 2024


At their season’s midpoint, the Tampa Bay Lightning find themselves in the curious position of possibly playing golf in April instead of competing for a fourth Stanley Cup.

When they play the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night to open a four-game homestand, the Lightning will be looking for a positive change to the season’s direction.

Through 41 games, the Lightning continue to underachieve, especially considering their elite standard.

Over the first half of last season, the three-time Stanley Cup winners had 27 wins, earned 55 points and trailed the second-place Toronto Maple Leafs by four points in the Atlantic Division with three games in hand.

Currently, the Lightning have 19 victories (43 points) and sit outside of a wild-card spot. They also find themselves on the wrong side of the games-in-hand picture.

Their 86-point pace would likely fall short of a postseason berth. Last season, the Ottawa Senators totaled 86 points, placing them 11th in the conference and missing the final playoff spot claimed by the Florida Panthers (92 points).

Plenty of work lies ahead for the Lightning, who last failed to qualify for the playoffs in a 94-point regular season in 2016-17.

“Bottom line, it was a 4-3 game going to the third and they took advantage of their (four) shots,” coach Jon Cooper said after the Lightning surrendered three late goals in Saturday’s 7-3 loss at the host Boston Bruins.

The Lightning are 11-5-3 at home as opposed to 8-12-2 on the road.

Forward Tanner Jeannot was injured in the middle of the second period in Boston and did not return, while Jack Thompson and Emil Martinsen Lilleberg made their NHL debuts.

While the Kings have had almost no success against Tampa Bay over the past six seasons, they will look for anything positive in the second stop of their season-long six-game road trip.

The Pacific Division’s third-place group opened the road swing in Washington against the Capitals on Sunday and saw much of the same disappointment that has plagued the club since beating San Jose 5-1 after the Christmas break.

Kevin Fiala scored twice as the Kings built a pair of one-goal leads, but John Carlson broke a 3-all tie with 53 seconds left as the host team handed Los Angeles its fifth straight defeat.

“We were talking about getting the third (goal) in the past, and we got the third one tonight” said Kings coach Todd McLellan, whose club is 0-3-2 in the stretch. “Yeah, we had chances at four, but if we, as a group, expect to score five every night to win, which is what we needed tonight, that’s not going to happen. I’m a little more disappointed in the defensive part of it.”

Added Fiala, who has 10 goals: “That’s not acceptable. We’re going to make sure next game we’re going to do everything we can to win.”

Recent history is not on the Kings’ side.

Since 2017 in the past 12 contests against Tampa Bay, Los Angeles has won only once — 4-2 on Oct. 25, 2022 at home — and holds a 1-8-3 record.

The team announced that goaltender Pheonix Copley, a spark in last season’s run to the playoffs, had ACL surgery and will miss the rest of the season.

–Field Level Media

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