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Game Preview: Light it Up

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Two of the hottest teams in the league meet up

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Columbus Blue Jackets Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Blue Jackets are red-hot! The Union Blue have won 4 straight, including both legs of the recent road trip. Their 5-1-0 record is tied for the best start in franchise history (with 2009-10). Now they return for a 4 game homestand as leaders of the Metro Division.

Their opponent tonight is an equally hot team in the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bolts fell just short of the playoffs last season, despite the absence of captain and star Steven Stamkos (only 17 games played). Stamkos is back and the Lightning were a popular preseason pick.

The standout this season is not Stamkos, but rather his linemate Nikita Kucherov. He has 8 goals on the season, including one in each game. That 7 game streak is the most to start a season since Mario Lemieux scored in 12 games to start the 1992-93 season. The all-time record is held by Harry “Punch” Broadbent who scored in 16 straight games in 1921-22.

Columbus faces their stiffest test so far in that top line of Kucherov/Stamkos/Namestnikov. They have combined for 13 goals, including 4 on the power play. The good news is there are opportunities to score on Tampa, and the Jackets are coming off of their most complete, balanced game of the young season. All four forward lines were on ice for a goal on Tuesday in Winnipeg.

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
Artemi Panarin Alexander Wennberg Cam Atkinson
Matt Calvert Nick Foligno Oliver BJORKSTRAND
Sonny Milano Brandon Dubinsky Josh Anderson
Pierre-Luc Dubois Lukas Sedlak Zac Dalpe
Zach Werenski Seth Jones
Jack Johnson David Savard
Ryan Murray Markus Nutivaara
Sergei Bobrovsky
Joonas Korpisalo
Tampa Bay Lightning
Nikita Kucherov Steven Stamkos Vladislav Namestnikov
Yanni Gourde Brayden Point Ondrej Palat
Chris Kunitz Cedric Paquette Ryan Callahan
Tyler Johnson Alex Killorn
Victor Hedman Jack Dotchin
Mikhail Sergachev Anton Stralman
Braydon Coburn Daniel Girardi and Andrej Sustr
Andrei Vasilevskiy
Peter Budaj