When the Lightning lost both of their games against the Devils in mid-January, it seemed utterly humiliating at the time. New Jersey had been playing the absolute worst hockey in franchise history for the entirety of the first half of the 2010-11 NHL season.
I'm not going to recap it all, but it's downright scary to think what the Lightning's opponent tonight has done over the past month+: Since January 9th, when the Lightning and Devils squared off for the first time this season, New Jersey is on 16-1-2 rampage. Their last regulation loss came at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings on January 26th. They're 13th in the conference standings right now, 9 points behind 8th seeded Carolina.
You have to wonder if they can actually pull off one of th greatest single-season turn arounds in NHL history and make the playoffs...
...or if Tampa Bay can actually make a showing and perhaps even defeat the Devils?
Goaltender Mike Smith was placed on re-entry waivers yesterday following Dan Ellis' trade to Anaheim. We'll find out at noon if Smith clears or was claimed by an NHL club. Recent history of goalies on waivers suggests there should be no issue and Smith will return to Tampa to back up Dwayne Roloson.
The lone exception of that recent history is Evgeny Nabokov and the New York Islanders. I will say no more.
The New Jersey Devils penalty kill is 7th ranked in the NHL, with an 83.9% kill-rate. The Bolts are ranked 13th, with preventing opponents from scoring on the power play 82.6% of the time.
On the flip side, the Lightning climbed to 6th in the NHL on the power play after their man-advantage success against the Coyotes on Wednesday night. The team, for the season, has converted on 20.7% of their power play opportunities. The Devils, on the other hand, are 29th in the NHL at current. They only convert power play opportunities 14% of the time.
This game will be won or lost at even strength.
This game also marks the end of the mammoth homestand. Fear not, good Lightning fans... The Bolts will return hokme soon for another 4 game engagement shortly
Game Day Note: Jaroslav Janus has been promoted from the ECHL Florida Everblades to the Norfolk Admirals.