Tonight is the first of back-to-back Southeast Division games. The Bolts take on the Carolina Hurrianes at Times Palace this evening before jetting to Washington DC to take on the Capitals tomorrow night. While back-to-back games are never smiled upon, it's nice to know the Bolts haven't had to suffer one of these for the past five weeks (Ottawa Senators - New York Islanders on December 5 + 6).
That doesn't make things any easier, though, for a bruised Bolts brigade. I failed to report on Tuesday that Adam Hall has been added to the extended-wounded list as he has suffered a torn muscle. He's out for 8 weeks, per the team. Add him to the band of merry men who are out (Mattias Ohlund, Victor Hedman, J.T. Wyman, Ryan Shannon) and you see a team depleted of defensive depth on both sides of the blue-line.
Carolina has lost four-of-five, the Bolts have lost four straight. Something's got to give tonight. Factor in Carolina's four road wins (total) this season, and the "give" becomes hope that the latest losing streak is at its end.
Martin St. Louis practiced this morning with a visor instead of a cage. There's been no decision if he'll switch between cage and visor for tonight's game. The visor is a big change. I'm actually surprised more players don't play with the (somewhat annoying) cage. While a grid in front of your face is a hindrance / obstruction, it's not prone to fogging up and in need of constant cleaning (a la a visor). It may make fighting more difficult (the full face obstruction), but it protects the players in the same fashion (though more completely) as a half-shield.
Speaking of players protecting injuries, or more like injured-players period, Paul Kennedy reported on Twitter that Jeff Skinner may make his return to the Canes lineup tonight. Jeff has missed the past 15 games for Carolina with post concussion symptoms. It'd be a big boost - both in morale and in talent on-ice - for the Eastern Conference cellar dwelling Hurricanes to get him back.
Mathieu Garon is the announced starter for the Lightning tonight. For his solid numbers during the Bolts recent successes, he cooled off quickly on the road last week. Garon deserved a break, and unfortunately it was earned for the wrong reasons (being chased in Toronto and the overall effort in Montreal).
One final note - Steven Stamkos has been named the Bolts sole 2012 NHL All-Star representative. Congratulations!