Bruins-Lightning Preview: Tampa Bay’s Depth To Be Tested Amid Injuries

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BOSTON — The Bruins will aim to extend their win streak against the Tampa Bay Lightning to 10 games when they host the Atlantic Division club Thursday night at TD Garden.

Boston has won three straight games and has taken points from each of its last six matchups, but the Lightning are one of the NHL’s best teams and feature plenty of skill and speed up and down their lineup.

However, the Lightning are without three regulars — forwards Cedric Paquette and Ondrej Palat, as well as newly acquired defenseman Braydon Coburn — because of injuries. These injuries come at a difficult time in the season with the playoffs on the horizon, but it also allows Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper to see what other players can do in more important roles.

“It’s tough, but this is where our depth is going to be tested,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “It’s been something that’s made us very successful this year, our ability to throw different guys in different roles. This is where we will be tested in that regard.”

Here’s a preview of Bruins-Lightning.

TV, Radio Information: NESN and 98.5 The Sports Hub

Season Series: 1-0 Bruins

Record: Boston (34-22-10, fourth in Atlantic), Tampa Bay (42-20-6, second in Atlantic)

Bruins Player To Watch: Bruins center Ryan Spooner has a six-game point streak (three goal, four assists) and is providing valuable speed and scoring production — at even strength and on the power play — with top-six center David Krejci out of the lineup with a knee injury.

“I think he’s brought that element of speed that we always saw in Ryan,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said Thursday morning. “His playmaking ability seems to be even better. He seems to be gaining confidence all the time, but I think the biggest thing with Ryan is his play at this level, he seems to have a lot more confidence where he was hesitant at times in certain areas. He’s getting his nose dirty, he’s not afraid to go into the corners to get in on the battle for pucks where at times he was a little hesitant to go in there, not because he was scared, but sometimes about making a mistake and wanting to be in the right place.

“I think he’s just feeling better about his game right now and he’s gaining confidence and that’s what you expect from Ryan. We don’t expect him to be a (Milan) Lucic type player. We expect him to be a player that he’s been drafted as and that’s speed and skill.”

Lightning Player To Watch: Superstar center Steven Stamkos has scored in four of his last five games against the B’s with 20 points (14 goals, six assists) in 24 career matchups against the Original Six club. He scored twice in Tampa Bay’s 4-3 loss to the Bruins on Jan. 13 at TD Garden.

Key Stat For Bruins: Boston’s power play has started March very well with five goals in four games. Boston has scored a power-play goal in three straight games for the only time all season and first since 2011. The B’s also are improving at drawing penalties and have been on the power play an average of four times in the last three games. That said, they still rank 30th in power-play opportunities with 166 on the season.

Key Stat For Lightning: Tampa Bay is the highest-scoring team in the league with an average of 3.3 goals per game. The Lightning have nine players with 30-plus points and 10 players with double-digit goals.

Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images

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