Final homestand, Rangers at Lightning preview

WHERE:  St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
WHEN:  7:30 PM EDT
MEDIA:  Sun Sports (cable), 620 WDAE (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE:  Blueshirt Banter

We were wrong when we mentioned that the Lightning had an inconsistent pattern to the season.  Oh, they have a consistent pattern, all right.  The problem is, and I've phrased it like this before, they are consistently inconsistent.  When the corner seems turned, they regress.  And yet when things are at their darkest, the Bolts amaze us with a showing that defies expectations.  

It's not as if the Bolts shocked the world on Wednesday night with their win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, but they did shock this member of their fanbase with a showing after debacles in Buffalo and Columbus, respectfully.

It'd be a futile to predict the Bolts will make a run during this final leg of the season (the pattern shows us otherwise), but to suggest they make a game of tonight (an actual contest instead of another drubbing at the hands of Tortorella and company) isn't out of the question.

And so begins the final Times Palace homestand of the 2009-2010 season.

If the Eastern Conference wins the Stanley Cup this season, I will be shocked.

With middling efforts by the majority of the league, the race for a playoff slot continues wide open...  with just over a week left in the season.  Six games remain on the Rangers calendar.  Five games remain left on the Lightning schedule.  And yet both teams have not been mathematically eliminated from contention yet with thanks from ineptitude by the Bruins, Flyers and Montreal Canadiens.

Just think about this for a minute:  The Lightning are in 14th place (tied for it, at least) and still have an outside shot at the playoffs?  With five games left?

Playoff races are fun,  but this is ridiculous.  It's going to come down to the final game of the season (that's nothing new) but how many teams are still in contention and the fact the 6th, 7th and 8th seeds are all still up for grabs?  That those last three seeds are tied for points?  It's nuts.

This is a must-win game for the Rangers.  They need these two points like some readers need allergy medicine because of all teh pollen in the air.  It's mandatory.  And you have to think that John Tortorella is a little pissed off having to come back into Tampa to chase these two points.  It's not that he has problems with Tampa, it's the fact he himself becomes part of the sideshow  gets distracted.  He's home.

Steven Stamkos' "Seen cincuenta?"campaign continues tonight.  He is at 46 goals after his tally in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.  no telling who the starter in net will be.  With Antero Niittymaki struggling, odds are Mike Smith will get a chance to start tonight.

2010 NHL Entry Draft Prospect

Continuing our look at some of the top prospects for this year's entry draft (taken from The Scouting Report)

Erik Gudbranson (D)

Limited to only 25 games so far, Gudbranson has still managed to show a lot of the potential he possesses in his game. Gudbranson is a very good skater for his size, and has been a lot more involved offensively this year. He competes hard and isn’t afraid to play physical, which are all assets that will ease his transition to the NHL. If Gudbranson can regain his touch prior to his bout with mono when he returns, he could very well give Cam Fowler a run for the #3 slot, but if not, he might slip a few spots as well.

Other Previews

Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview

St. Pete Times

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