WHERE: Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado
WHEN: 9 PM EST
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable), 620 WDAE (Radio)
The big failure of the recent six of nine games at home was the lack of points picked up in the standings by the Lightning. Nine games, five points picked up in the standings. 2-1-4.
That is not going to cut it if the Lightning are serious about making the playoffs this season.
In fact the Bolts have been lucky. The Florida Panthers are still behind them in the standings, but the Kitties are within striking distance of passing the Bolts... Well, if they stop taking out their own players... Still, it's the Bolts who are guilty of under-performing in most (if not all) areas of their game, and it will come back to haunt them unless things change.
Tonight's the second match-up between the Lightning and the Colorado Avalanche this season, and within the past two weeks at that. You might recall the Bolts being goose-egged by the Avs in Tampa at the end of November. The Avs are in the midst of a lengthy home stand, playing seven of eight at home. They opened that series up on Tuesday with a shutout loss to the Wild. They'll be looking to get back into the swing of things tonight.
From DDC at Mile High Hockey:
Meanwhile, the Avalanche are expected to get Craig Anderson back from a neck injury suffered in Florida. Anderson hasn't finished a game since...November 30th against the Lightning. Peter Budaj has been better-than-solid in Anderson's place (1.26 GAA, .956 Sv%), but that doesn't mean the Avalanche won't get a morale boost from the return of Anderson.
The Avalanche are converting 18.9% of their power play opportunities at current, that's good for 18th in the league. The Lightning, in contrast, are converting 18.3% of power play opportunities -- that puts them at 23rd in the NHL. Now factor in the potential that Ryan Malone (4 PP goals this season) and Steven Stamkos (7 PP goals) will be out tonight (as of this writing, this had not yet been determined) and the Bolts are likely at a bigger disadvantage with a man advantage. PP 18, 80.7 PK -15
And on the penalty kill? Colorado has an 80.7 kill-rate, good for 18th in the league. Tampa Bay? 77.5 (26th in the league), along with the second-lowest kill-rate on the road (71.4). Playing that weak a man-down means the Bolts need to be extra vigilant against taking stupid penalties. Members fo the Lightning blue-line have been the usual suspects for being penalizd, but RW Steve Downie has been guilty of playing more reckless as of late - and with his reputation, this only leads to refs all-too-willing to send Downie to the sin bin.
We'll post the starting lineup for the Lightning later in the day. If the trend over the past 9 games holds, the Lightning will likely start Mike Smith in net...
[Note by John Fontana, 12/11/09 3:03 PM EST ] We've got a general guess on the lines tonight. Matt Smaby will be in (his second game this season) as well as Kurtis Foster on defense. Antero Niittymaki will between teh pipes for the Lightning and it LOOKS like Ryan Malone will play. Lukas Krajicek will not play because of his status with the team.
Tampa Bay Lightning Projected Lines
(updated December 11, 2009 by RawCharge subject to change)
Antero Niittymaki (starter)