There are only four teams in the National Hockey League with fewer points in the standings than the Tampa Bay Lightning. That, in itself, is disappointing to know. Those teams below the Bolts in the standings are 3-2 against Tampa Bay this season, that's even more disappointing to know (Carolina has gone 1-1, the New York Islanders are 2-1).
Tonight, Tampa Bay begins its Western Conference holiday road swing with the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are the dregs of the NHL this season: 22 points, a 6-9-2 record at home, a 3-9-2 record on the road, 74 goals for, 102 goals against.
Yeah, it's bad... Except that last number. 102 goals against. There are worse teams out there in the goals-allowed department, they're not in the Western Conference though. They're ack East. They're The Ottawa Senators (115), the Carolina Hurricanes (113), and your Tampa Bay Lightning (105).
Everyone's favorite once-and-future-Bolt Vaclav Prospal will be honored before tonight's game in Columbus for playing his 1000th NHL game earlier this season. As Matt Wagner posted on the Cannon preview for tonight's game, it's fitting that the honoring occurs against the Lightning. Vinny played all or part of six seasons with the Lightning between 2001-02 and 2008-09, having his greatest success with linemates Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis on the "MVP" line in Tampa.
Of course, the caveat to Vinny Prospal and his career in Tampa is that he missed out on the franchise's greatest success: He had left the Bolts for Anaheim in 2003-04, while the Lightning conquered the NHL and claimed Lord Stanley's Cup as their own. Vinny returned to Tampa post-lockout, but the team never ventured to such heights in the standings again while he was here.
So, congratulations Vinny P on 1,000 games played.
Matt Gilroy appears to be out tonight after sustaining an ambiguous "lower body injury" during Thursday's overtime win against the Flames. Gilroy disappeared from the Lightning bench during the third, and had a total of 15:31 of ice time before his departure.
Evan Oberg will once again be recalled by the Bolts. While he is racking up frequent flier miles for travel, he most certainly must appreciate the "show dough" for being carried on the Lightning roster. There is no word if Oberg will actually play. Odds are that Bruno Gervais will be in the lineup to fill in for Gilroy.
Speaking of defense, you may have already heard that Mattias Ohlund may be done for the season before actually playing a game. Ohlund had surgery on both knees in October to clear out "loose bodies" in his knees. There seems to have been a complication or another. Ohlund is not skating, there is irritation. Even if Mattias were to suddenly heal and resume practice, it would still be weeks before he were ready to return to playing (and likely would require a stint with the Norfolk Admirals). So, counting on Ohlund's return shouldn't be depended upon.
And while I would much rather note the hockey game and not ill conditions, I do want to send my thoughts and well wishes to Lightning assistant coach Wayne Fleming who is in a Calgary area hospital. Fleming was diagnosed with brain cancer last season and departed the team for treatment shortly prior to the end of 2010-11 regular season.