Tampa Bay Lightning face tough test with Ondrej Palat out

Tampa Bay Lightning face tough test with Ondrej Palat out

The Tampa Bay Lightning have impressive depth and have shown they can overcome adversity. But Ondrej Palat’s injury is still a painful one.

As expected, the Tampa Bay Lightning are off to a very strong start. Despite facing tough competition from the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, and the surprising Montreal Canadiens, they still lead the Atlantic Division with an outstanding 11-3-1 record (23 points). Their +15 goal differential trails only the Nashville Predators.

However, the Lightning are about to face a fairly significant test. Their forward depth will be tested as Ondrej Palat will miss the next four weeks thanks to a lower-body injury. Thus far, he has five assists in nine games. Palat last played on Oct. 26 against the Vegas Golden Knights.

They were hoping he would heal with some time off, but now he’ll be out for the remainder of the month of November. Palat has been a reliable top-nine forward for the Lightning and he’s someone head coach Jon Cooper trusts quite a bit.

Who Steps Up?

Luckily for the Lightning, they’re an extremely deep team. So they can probably at worst tread water even without someone as important as Palat. Without him so far, the Lightning have gone 4-2-0. Palat has primarily played with Nikita Kucherov and Tyler Johnson at five-on-five this season.

So far, the Lightning have adapted in an interesting manner – by loading up on their top six forwards. They’ve reunited Steven Stamkos, Kucherov, and J.T. Miller on the top forward line. The Lightning have also created a second line featuring Yanni Gourde, Brayden Point, and Johnson.

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This has left their bottom six a little empty, as their current third line of Mathieu Joseph, Anthony Cirreli, and Alex Killorn have combined for 10 points in 15 games. The Lightning have the depth to make up Palat’s loss, but it’s clear they miss their swiss-army knife who can play all over the lineup and be productive.

They’ve done quite well without Palat thus far. But now the Lightning will have to continue to do so for longer than they anticipated.

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