These little town blues are melting away; Lightning at Rangers preview

NEW YORK NY - DECEMBER 23: Alex Frolov #31 of the New York Rangers tries to control the puck from the ice as he is covered by Victor Hedman #77 and Dominic Moore #19 of the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period of an NHL hockey game at Madison Square Garden on December 23 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

WHERE: Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
WHEN: 1 PM EST
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable), 620 WDAE (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Blueshirt Banter

How better can you break from the monotony of home, than by travel to the city that never sleeps?

After a month of home games -- 12 straight, as has been noted to death -- today marks the first road game in a while for the Lightning. A matinée affair against the New York Rangers.

Though the Lightning are going for the season-series sweep, it's not going to be an easy affair. Think of it like this: The Bolts have only one regulation win against the Blueshirts, that being back in November when the team collapsed against the Rags in the third period, marring an otherwise well-played game. The other two victories the Lightning have come by way of the shootout (12/23 at Madison Square Garden) and a brief overtime affair (new years day 2011 at Times Palace).

It's also an odd coincidence that this is the fourth game that, arguably, is happening during the holidays. That's if you consider the NHL trade deadline a holiday, that is. Speaking of the deadline, the Rangers acquired Bryan McCabe from the Florida Panthers on Saturday while Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune tweeted Saturday of a rumor involving Brett Clark to the Chicago Blackhawks. This came by way of Tim Sassone at the Chicago Daily Herald (hat tip to Don for mentioning this in comments on another story).

The trade deadline may not be a holiday, but it's a sideshow that this game will be played in the shadow of... Just like the previous 3 meetings between these two clubs this season.

The Rangers currently have the 7th ranked penalty kill unit in the NHL, and part of the reason for it is undoubtedly goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Hank leads the NHL with 8 shutouts as well, the last one being Friday night against the Washington Capitals in Washington. Oh, Lundqvist is also 13-6-4 all-time record against the Lightning.

On the power play, the Bolts remain ranked 6th (20.6% success rate) while the Rangers are ranked 21st in the league (16.9%). Ryan Callahan leads the way offensively on the power play, having recorded 7 power play goals. Marian Gaborik (who is supposed to be out for today's game) has 12 points on the power play for the Blueshirts.

Speaking of the power play, it's easy enough to point out that Lightning center Steven Stamkos leads the league with 16 power play goals... But how many realize that Vincent Lecavalier has 8 this season, tied for 20th in the NHL? Many have noticed Lecavalier's strong play of late -- but being third on the team in power play goals isn't something highlighted much (he's one behind Ryan Malone, who has nine).

Steven Stamkos remains one point behind Daniel Sedin for the NHL lead in points. Stammer continues to lead the league with 41 goals scored this season. That's eight ahead of second-place Ryan Kessler (33 goals).

And in case you have missed the recent waiver news for the Lightning: Goalie Mike Smith is back with the Lightning. Newly acquired goaltender Cory McElhinney was placed on waivers yesterday. If he clears waivers, he'll be assigned to Norfolk of the AHL. And in non-waiver demotion news, Johan Harju was sent back to the Admirals yesterday.

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