Boston Bruins

Mar 25, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) shoots as Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (40) makes a save during the third period at Amalie Arena. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

By Ty Anderson,

The Bruins’ path to home-ice advantage throughout the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs just got a bit easier, as the Tampa Bay Lightning will be without captain Steven Stamkos for up to two months after Stamkos underwent surgery to repair a core muscle injury.

Given to a six- to eight-week recovery timetable, that math is expected to put Stamkos on the shelf for the remainder of the regular season, and perhaps the entire first round of the playoffs. The injury was an inevitability that was almost certainly dragged out, really, as Stamkos missed a few games earlier this month due to a vague day-to-day injury before he returned for a quick spell before he departed the team’s Feb. 25 loss to the Leafs after the second period.

The news also comes with two massive, Atlantic-deciding head-to-heads with the Bruins and Bolts on deck for this week beginning with Tuesday’s meeting at Amalie Arena and then Saturday’s contest at TD Garden.

Currently trailing the Bruins by seven points (and with a game in hand), a sweep of this week’s head-to-heads and taking care of their game in hand would absolutely reignite a photo finish for the Atlantic down the stretch, as it would put the Bolts just one point out of first place and with head-to-head tiebreakers over the Black and Gold.

But doing that without the 30-year-old Stamkos, who has 29 goals and 66 points in 57 contests (including two goals and an assist in two meetings with the B’s this season), is an awfully difficult ask.

“You can’t replace him,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper told reporters. “He is one of the best in the world at what he does.”

The Bruins are 0-1-1 against the Lightning this season, and have just one win in their last six tries against the Bolts.

Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.