WHERE: St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
WHEN: 7 PM EST
MEDIA: Versus (Cable), 620 WDAE (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Japers' Rink
There, I said it and got it out of the way. It's the new It word regarding the Tampa Bay Lightning (or perhaps Steven Stamkos). John Romano came right out with it in the St. Pete TImes, Martin Fennelly at the Tampa Tribune decided to chime in about Stamkos being a driving engine for the team.
You know there are issues when the general sports columnists for both papers actually address the Lightning.
From Romano's piece:
In less than seven days' time, the Lightning has gone from a five-point lead in the Southeast Division to trailing for the first time since Dec. 30. It has fallen from the conference's No. 2 seed to its No. 5. Lightning players have gone from wondering about how high they might go to fretting about where they might eventually land.
The Lightning, physically hurting and seemingly reeling, head into tonight's finale with the current Southeast division leader -- the Washington Capitals. The Caps played last night, winning in Sunrise in overtime. They're one point ahead of the Bolts int he standings now.
Expect a playoff atmosphere at Times Palace this evening, and the national television broadcast on Versus only adds to the mystique of tonight's battle for the division lead.
Yesterday's Lightning practice at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon saw a load of line juggling while several players were out for "body maintenance." That line juggling included Steven Stamkos moving to right wing, centered by Dominic Moore, with Martin St. Louis playing on the left side.
The Lightning can't say they are the only team in this matchup with serious injury issues. While Steve Downie is out, Mike Lundin and Ryan Malone are out (and Marc-Andre Bergeron doubtful), the Capitals are without Tom Poti, Mike Green, Eric Fehr and goaltender Semyon Varlamov.
Michal Neuvirth made the start last night for the Capitals against the Panthers, stopping 32 shots and getting the win. Dwayne Roloson will undoubtedly be in net for the Lightning, and how couldn't he be? While going 2-2-0 against the Caps this season (with both the Lightning and the New York Islanders), his .GAA is 1.50 and he has a .949 save percentage
The Capitals, for their offensive prowess, have the 24th ranked power play unit in the league, converting on 16 percent of opportunities. The Lightning are tied for 6th in the league, with a 20.3 conversion rate. On the flip side, the Capitals penalty kill is one of the best in the NHL. The Caps have stopped 85.4% of opposing power plays, ranking them 4th in the league. The Lightning, on the other hand, are stopping 82.5% of opposition power plays -- 15th in the NHL.
The Raw Charge game thread opens at 6:30 PM.