Ducks at Lightning Preview: MASH vs. ER

"Hold down the fort without me. Kay, little buddy?" - USA TODAY Sports

Injuries suck!

News doesn't get much bigger around Tampa than Steven Stamkos missing three months or more with a broken leg. That's a pretty big break (no pun intended) for the Ducks as it looks like they'll be without their top scorer once again, as well. The Lightning were able to win their first game without Stamkos, 2-1 in a shootout over Montreal on Tuesday night, so hopefully they follow the same pattern as the Ducks, sans Getzlaf, and lose their second Stamkos-less game. That's how it works, right?

It's not just the Ducks who are the walking wounded this season. The Lightning also lost Sami Salo to a lower body injury (shocking, I know) in the same game that Stamkos was injured, but Salo is listed as day to day. For the record, Keith Aulie is also out as a result of that Boston game, but I'm sure they'll be able to find someone to replace his 0-0-0 stat line in three games played this season.

Keys to the Game: According to dailyfaceoff.com Alex Kilhorn has moved into the top line center slot, vacated by Stamkos, leaving Valtteri Filpula on the second line. Any line with Martin St. Louis is pretty much the first line now. Like the Ducks, there is a pretty big drop off from the top of the scoring list for Tampa, but otherwise the offense is relatively spread out with the St. Louis (16p), Kilhorn(12p) and Filpula (12p) being followed by Teddy Purcell (10p also second line) and Ryan Malone (9p) who now makes $4.5 million as a fourth liner.

The obvious focus should be on St. Louis boosting Kilhorn's numbers, but this should be an interesting matchup between two relatively deep teams with serious injury concerns.

Don't expect this to be the break out game for the PP. First of all, why would you? Secondly, Tampa has the fourth best PK unit in the league. Not quite as good as Vancouver, but much better than Florida, who each stifled the Ducks' extra-man unit equally.

What Can We Learn From This Game: The Ducks have been able to bounce back from early stumbles on each of their previous road trips so far. Can they do it again? The difference here is that the quality of competition is taking a significant step up this time from 29th place Florida to fourth place Tampa.

Hopefully, the seven defensemen experiment is over, with back to backs and Teemu coming out of the lineup for one of them. Of course, barring a late call up of newly signed David Steckel or Peter Holland, that would mean the return of Kyle Palmieri and probably more center time for Daniel Winnik.

In each of the two Getzlaf free games so far, the Ducks had segments in which they were overwhelmed by their opponents (a very bad sign against Florida). Versus Vancouver, Corey Perry was able to make the difference without his best buddy, but was a non-factor for the most part in Florida. Can he go all 2011 Hart Trophy winner again? Will he need to, or will the Ducks depth we're always gushing over come through?

Fearless Prediction: Steve Yzerman re-watches The Prestige and attempts to clone Stamkos with the Tesla Coil at Tampa Bay Times Forum, but the clone also has a broken tibia so he's forced to drown him in a tank of water..... or something like that.

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