Do the Lightning Consider Lineup Changes for Pivotal Game 5?

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With the Tampa Bay Lightning facing elimination in Game 5 Thursday night, the question of whether they consider making lineup changes is one worth pondering.

They haven’t played poorly in the last two games. In fact, the Lightning controlled play for long stretches in Games 3 and 4. Defensive lapses late allowed the Toronto Maple Leafs to come back and force overtime, a period that hasn’t been too kind to Tampa Bay in each of their past three successful postseasons.

Entering a do-or-die Game 5, however, the Lightning might have physical forward Michael Eyssimont available for the first time since a big hit from Jake McCabe knocked him out of Game 1.

Considering that, do they insert Eyssimont and sit one of their other bottom six forwards?

It’s a valid question if Eyssimont is ready to go.

The third line of Tanner Jeannot, Nick Paul, and Ross Colton has struggled to produce offense, with Colton’s three points being all of the scoring that line has seen. They also are a combined minus-5 in three games together, as Jeannot was recovering from a late regular season injury that prevented him from playing Game 1.

On the fourth line, Corey Perry is second on the team with five points, so there’s no chance he gets taken out. Pat Maroon and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare have three points combined. Defensively though, they are a combined plus-one. Couple that with their physical play, and it makes no sense to take any of those three out of the lineup.

Given that Jeannot just returned to the lineup and brings a physical element that could prove beneficial, the Lightning should consider sending Paul to the press box for at least one game.

Now hear me out. He’s a good player, but there’s a chance his prolonged offensive slump is affecting the rest of his game. A game off might allow him to reset mentally and be ready for the next time he gets in the lineup.

As for line combinations, there is no reason to mess with the top six. You can keep your fourth line intact or slot Maroon alongside Jeannot and Colton, with Eyssimont flanking Bellemare and Perry. Either way should work, as head coach Jon Cooper can always mix and match during the game if needed.

Defensively, you could swap out Ian Cole for Haydn Fleury, but that’s not much of an upgrade. If Erik Cernak was ready after suffering injury in the series first game, the answer would be fairly easy. He’s not though, so the Lightning have to make do with the players available to them.

Will the Lightning make any lineup changes ahead of Game 5? No matter the decision, they must play as if there’s no tomorrow because their season depends on it.

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Lauren Burg

Lauren Burg is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer for “Inside the Rink.” A lifelong Tampa Bay Area resident, she graduated from the University of South Florida’s world-renowned journalism program in December 2009. While in college, she discovered hockey and the Tampa Bay Lightning. She quickly became a passionate fan, attending many games over the years. She also experienced an All-Star game in 2018, numerous road games, and, most recently, the Bolts back-to-back Stanley Cup championships. Since graduating college, she’s been working hard to combine her two loves, writing and hockey, hoping to one day make that her full-time career. In her free time, she enjoys attending sporting events (both home & road when possible), taking photos, and traveling.

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