We interrupt our regularly scheduled game day preview at Raw Charge to bring you the following:
This concludes the mandated mentions of the still recovering Pittsburgh Penguin Sidney Crosby. We now return you to our regularly scheduled game day preview.
The Atlantic Division leading Penguins roll into Times Palace this evening to take on a reeling Lightning team that was outscored the past two games by a score of 8-2. While there were impressive moments by the Bolts on the attack, stymied by opposing goalies Brian Elliott and Ondrej Pavelec, there were more moments of disjointed, inconsistent, downright bumbling play that made it look like the Bolts were phoning things in.
After Monday's loss in Winnipeg, the Lightning players held a closed-door meeting. You can easily guess they were not discussing what they were planning to order through room service once they returned to their hotel.
No, they talked about mistakes, about urgency, about how the team plays different when it's down a few goals. As Dwayne Roloson put it, the did what is routine on most hockey teams - they held themselves accountable:
"This happens two or three times a year on any team," goaltender Dwayne Roloson said. "There's times in a year the players need to take the bull by the horns and address some things that need to be addressed. Coach gives us a game plan, and Guy relies on us to do the stuff we need to be accountable."
Tonight marks the opening of a three game home stand at Times Palace, opening with a trying contest against the Pens. Will the Lightning take the first step to rectifying an inconsistent season? Th result of tonight's game, and even the homestand alone, won't tell us this for sure or not. It'll be the sum of the remainder of the month.
Roloson gets the start in net for the Lightning tonight, after being chased in Winnipeg on Monday. Roloson's play was not horrible, but he wasn't standing-on-his-head, keeping-them-in-it either. The change to Mathieu Garon didn't light the proverbial team fire, so changing starters isn't going to necessarily rectify the situation.
Meanwhile, Teddy Purcell plans to play tonight. He was out of practice yesterday with an illness and said today that he just needs to get his energy up for the game.
Who is out,for sure, is forward Ryan Malone. Malone practiced in the non-contact jersey today and is targeting Saturday as his return date.
The Lightning come into the game with a 19th ranked power-play unit. They are converting all of 15% of man-advantage opportunities. That's a long way from where they were last season, when they routinely were in the top 10 in the NHL. This may very well be one of the contributing factors to why the Lightning are struggling: Getting 50 power plays and scoring 9 times is a major lost opportunity.
While it'd be huge to see the Bolts power play re-ignite tonight, don't expect it: Pittsburgh leads the league on the penalty kill, stopping 94.2% of opponent power plays.
Pittsburgh is 5th in the league with a 20.5% conversion rate. James Neal leads the team, as well as the league, with 6 power play goals. They'll be up against the 18th ranked Lightning penalty-kill unit *81.5% kill rate). Though, statistically, the Bolts went 1-for-2 on the penalty kill on Monday, the truth is they were 0-for-1. The second Winnipeg power play of the game came in the closing seconds of the contest.
One last note: It's "Go Green" night at Times Palace, that means recycling of one variety of one variety or another, and discounts on tickets:
Fans who bring Pittsburgh Penguins jerseys, hats or t-shirts, as well as personal documents or old phone books, to be shredded by Proshred will receive tickets at a discounted rate, including $30 terrace center seats or $70 promenade end seats. This special ticket incentive will take place on the west plaza prior to the game, however quantities are limited and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis for those who participate.