WHERE: Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
WHEN: 7:30 PM EST | | TICKETS: Check Availability
Versus NBC Sports Net (cable), 620 WDAE (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Japers' Rink, Rock the Red, Kings of Leonsis
We hope you were able to mind the interruption. Your regularly scheduled 2011-12 Tampa Bay Lightning season now resumes in progress...
A week ago, the Bolts sacked the Union Army of Ohio for their fourth consecutive win and creating the longest winning streak of the Tampa Bay Lightning's season so far. They did it with a cast of walking wounded as well as a mash-up of Norfolk Admiral Call-ups.
With a week of rest and rehabilitation, the Bolts roster is still a mish-mash of wounded warriors and AHL call-ups. Let me start with the bad news: J.T. Wyman remains out with his infected pinkie issues. He's skating with the team but wearing the no-contact jersey (UPDATE: The team's Twitter feed announced Wyman is a go for tonight. Stay tuned). Worse news? Ryan Malone remains out - he's not skating with the team - at this point in time. The Lightning has recalled Pierre-Cedric Labrie this morning to compensate for being two forwards down. The trump-all bad news on the injury front is Dana Tyrell being lost for the season, he's having reconstructive surgery on his right knee today and he's supposed to be sidelined from the sport for six-months.
The four game winning streak seems a lot further away now, doesn't it? Well, let me give you some good news: Defenseman Victor Hedman is back in the lineup tonight after missing 13 games with post-concussion symptoms, the Lightning defense will likely play seven defenseman tonight with Hedman skating (while Marc-Andre Bergeron remains out). Also back are forwards Ryan Shannon and Tom Pyatt. Shannon has had an extended absence from NHL action with thanks to knee issues (he's not played since the 7-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks more than a month ago.
How much of a difference will this make in tonight's divisional showdown with the Washington Capitals? More on tonight's contest after the jump.
Dale Hunter has righted the ship for Washington (with a little help from the Florida Panthers fading just a tad). The Caps are back on top of the Southeast Division, sharing the division lead with the Panthers at current (55 points apiece). 55 points isn't much in the Eastern Conference this season, as the Panthers are barely inside the playoff bubble: They're tied with the New Jersey Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs, though the Panthers and Devils find themselves seeded 7th and 8th in the conference, while the Leafs are on the outside looking in.
The Caps have their own issues at the moment: No Alex Ovechkin tonight, as he serves game two of a three game suspension. Also out of action is Nicklas Backstrom. Like Hedman, the Swedish forward has been out of action for an extended period (since January 3rd) with a "head injury" (concussion) and he has not skated during the extended time off during the All-Star break.
In an interesting turn of events, the Caps have signed Hershey Bears forward Joel Rechlicz and recalled him for tonight's game. Rechlicz is known for his physical play, and I can't help but wonder if we'll see him and "Nacho" Labrie dance before the night is through. Why do I think the two men may square off? The Bears and the Norfolk Admirals are in a tight race in the AHL, and two teams split their most recent series this past weekend in Norfolk. These two squaring off won't be the focus of the game, however. That'll more likely be Steve Downie and... oh, just about the remainder of the Caps roster.
Lastly, in a sad bit of news of the day is the passing of Carrie Selivanov - daughter of team founder Phil Esposito and wife of former Bolt Alexander Selivanov. Our thoughts, prayers and condolences are with the Esposito family during their time of grieving. It should be noted that Phil Esposito will not be participating in Lightning radio broadcasts ant home for the next four games or so for obvious reasons.