Can Lightning strike twice? That is the question that the Lightning will be trying to answer all season. The Lightning now will be the hunted all instead of being the hunter as they begin defense of their Stanley Cup Championship.
Last season was one of the most unique seasons that we will ever see as hockey fans, and the 2020-21 season is shaping up to be just as memorable.
COVID has begun to rear its ugly head as the Dallas Stars have had to cancel the first three games of the season due to 17 COVID cases on the team.
The NHL announced that of the 12,000 COVID tests given in training camp, 27 returned positive, with 17 of those cases on the Dallas Stars.
The Lightning will be in a new division this year as they move from the Atlantic to the Central. The Florida Panthers and the Detroit Red Wings are the only teams in the division that is a holdover from the Atlantic Division last season.
Joining the Lightning and the Panthers and Red Wings will be Chicago, Carolina, Columbus, Nashville, and last year’s opponent in the Stanley Cup Final the Dallas Stars.
This is a tough division for the Lightning. With teams playing a 56 game schedule, every game becomes that much more critical. You can’t afford to fall behind in the division. If You go on an extended losing streak, and that could cost you a playoff spot.
The Lightning will play each team in the division eight times through the season.
Nikita Kucherov, one of the league’s top players, is out for the regular season as he recovers from hip surgery. Kucherov is planning on being back for the start of the playoffs in May.
Since last March, the captain Steven Stamkos has played just over two minutes of hockey. Stamkos is back and healthy and will help pick up some of the scoring slack with Kucherov out of the lineup.
The NHL has some complicated rules regarding the salary cap, and GM Julien BriseBois did some manipulation of the rules to get the Lightning below the 81.5 million dollar salary cap.
Tyler Johnson and Luke Schenn were placed on waivers. No team put a claim in for them, so they will miss the opener against Chicago but will be back on the active roster for the second game of the season on Friday.
22-year-old rookie defensemen Cal Foote made the team and could see action against the Blackhawks. Foote is expected to be paired with Ryan McDonagh on the blue line.
Foote is excited to be part of the big league club. “It’s been a great couple of days. Finding out that I’ll be playing the first game has been very exciting. It’s something I’ve dreamed of my whole life, so I’m very excited, and I’ll be ready to go.”