WHERE: Phillips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
WHEN: 7 PM EST
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable), 1250 WHNZ (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Bird Watchers Anonymous
Seasons greetings to one and all once again. Maybe you celebrated Christmas yesterday, maybe you celebrated Festivus on Thursday, maybe you are celebrating Kwanzaa today and through new years... Whatever the case, I hope everyone is well and had a good Saturday.
Erik Erlendsson tweeted from Atlanta that Martin St Louis did not travel with the team this morning due to illness. He may arrive later today but right now his current active streak of 425 games-played is at risk of falling.
Dan Ellis will get the start tonight... Which is no surprise). Ellis is 2-0-1 since Mike Smith got injured. While Cedrick Desjardins remains with the club, there's no telling if he will see playing time before his return to Norfolk upon Smith's clearance to return.
With all that being said, this is probably the most weighty game between the Lightning and the Thrashers that I can remember. Heck, this is one of the more relevant Southeast divisional games, period, that I can remember. Two competitive teams, both seeking a return to the playoffs, and the tight race at the top of the division.
Indeed, the Southeast Division hasn't exactly fostered rivalries over the years. Usually, only one team is truly competitive, with the teams behind them in the standings jockeying for position. The Lightning and Florida Panthers "rivalry" was hyped early on in the teams existence, but nothing ever came from that besides internal stressing of the importance of winning those games.
Lightning / Thrashers, on the other hand? Not only is there a battle going on in the standings but there are fighting words between players. Accusations, brush-offs... And who knows if there's going to be retaliation or the spreading of bad blood on ice?
But the physical game and trash talk isn't going to be what matters in the end. It's going to be the points gained and lost in this matchup (and those yet to come this season) that matter the most.
Atlanta needs these two points and wants to bring the Lightning back down to Earth. Even then, the Lightning have two-games in hand on the Thrash, and thus time to make up potentially lost points in the standings...
But lets hope it doesn't come to that. Because these two-points are important, and throwing this opponent for a loss is just as important.