The Bolts return to their home in Channelside this evening for what will be a quick homestand. All too quick for a wary team that has played five games in the past 10 days, jetting between Tampa, Pittsburgh and Washington and Tampa again. The Lightning and the Capitals go back-to-back, something not regularly heard of during the playoffs, for games 3 and 4, before getting a pair of days off before a Saturday matinée in Washington...
The Bolts have come home in what is close to the best circumstances possible: Leading the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Semifinal series with the Washington Capitals, 2 games to 0. The Lightning, however, are not looking at things like they have the series in the bag:
"It means nothing," right wing Martin St. Louis said of the 2-0 lead. "We have to earn it every day. This is about whoever wins four games, not two. Obviously we are happy with the results, but we've done nothing yet.''
Of course, they aren't in the absolute best situation right now -- defenseman Pavel Kubina and left wing Simon Gagne were both knocked out of game 1 on Friday. While Gagne has stated that he's feeling well and wants to return to action tonight, there's no telling if that will actually occur or not.
There's also the strategic side to giving Gagne an additional day of rest of recuperation: being completely ready and available for game 4 tomorrow night. As it stands right now, I would think that if Guy Boucher allows Gagne to play game 3, he may be of one mind or another to keep Gagne out of game 4 as a precaution.
Yes, it's the playoffs, but coach Boucher's strategy is every present, and the necessity to be ready for tomorrow is as prevalent as being ready to lunge into tonight's game with full force.
Of course, another part of tonight's story is the introduction of the "Blue Storm" to the Tampa Bay Lightning faithful. While, simplicity, it's another (color)out that teams have done repeatedly for years... Well, it beats a standard white-out that the Lightning have tried to employ in the past. It's also a forward thinking act, as blue does become the team's primary color in 2011-12.
Here's a question (that may have already been answered by Washington head coach Bruce Boudreau): Do you start Michal Neuvirth again? Or do you give Semyon Varlamov the start in goal? Or do you simply make that change tomorrow to give the fresher goalie the start?
The same question can be asked for the Lightning: Do you start Mike Smith tonight to give Dwayne Roloson rest for the flip-sid eof this back-to-back series? Or do you start Roloson tonight and Smith tomorrow?
Assistant coach Wayne Fleming is undergoing surgery in Irvine, California today. Fleming was diagnosed recently with a malignant brain tumor and has been undergoing treatment since April 7th. Our thoughts, prayers and well wishes are with him. He's one of our own, and he deserves our support.