WHERE: BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise, Florida
WHEN: 7:30 PM EST
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable), 620 WDAE (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: The Litter Box
If there's one lesson I have been taught in doing these game previews since March 2009, it's not to get ahead of myself in previewing a Lightning/Panthers match-up.
No matter where the Bolts or the Panthers are in the standings, the outcome of these match-ups is never anything close to what I expect. Since 2008-09, the Lightning are 6-6-2 against the Panthers (including 0-1-1 this season). You may recall, the Panthers were the source of the Bolts first humiliating loss of the season, the 6-0 drubbing in Sunrise on October 16th, 2010.
Is the fact I believe these are games the Lightning should win a chronic underestimation on my part? Maybe it's more of a shining example of pro sports: Respect your opponent - no matter who they are, or where they are in the standings.
The news from last night was that Steven Stamkos is within a single points of Sidney Crosby for the league lead, and is leading the league in goals-scored with 37 -- 5 goals in front of Crosby, and 10 more than 3rd place Daniel Sedin.
But, with that statistical good comes the statistical bad. The Lightning's 2011 power (outage) play continues. What has been repeatedly heralded as a strong unit has suddenly become disjointed. In the month of January, the Bolts have scored 3 times on 37 power play opportunities. That's 12.3%. That's .3 percentage points better than the Florida Panthers power play unit has been this year -- the worst in the NHL (19 goals in 158 opportunities).
Some may look at Stamkos' offensive resurgence as the looming savior for the Lightning power play, or perhaps Marc-Andre Bergeron's recall from Norfolk (which will not be happening soon). The truth, the Lightning need to get contributions from the likes of their other offensive threats - Martin St. Louis, Ryan Malone, Vincent Lecavalier, Simon Gagne, Sean Bergenheim, and others. They need to diversify offensively.
Odds are nothing will be resolved tonight, as the Bolts face off against a team that has one of the better penalty-kill units in the NHL. That and of course the Bolts played last night in Atlanta.
There was a tweet this morning saying Tomas Vokoun hurt his hand in practice. No telling if he is to start or not. Regardless of the injury, Vokoun had been benched in favor of Scott Clemmensen in recent days.
Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview