Two weeks notice; Tampa Bay Lightning at Philadelphia Flyers preview

WHERE: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
WHEN: 7:30 PM EDT | | TICKETS: Check Availability
MEDIA: Versus NBC Sports Net (cable), 970 WFLA (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Broad Street Hockey

Welcome to the home stretch of the 2011-12 NHL season. The final 13 days of the season are upon us, and a scant eight games remain.

For one reason or another, the other day I went back to an interview Head Coach Guy Boucher had given to Erik Erlendsson before training camp commenced... While the words may not offer much solace in missing the playoffs this season, they should be a reminder that this season will not be next season, as this season wasn't the one before it:

"... But what we were at the end of the year is not what we are going to be at the beginning of this year. I think that's the common misconception that teams, organizations and fans usually have is that they think it just continues and it's an on-going process, which it's not. There is a break in between, there's a change of players, there's chemistry that is going to be a little different to start."

This chapter, this process of becoming, has been a disappointment for Lightning faithful. But fear not, because the chapter concludes in Winnipeg on April 7th. Though challenges are very much in front of this team, especially this week.

The Bolts are back on the road, where they'll be for six of the remaining eight games of the season. Yet these first games are the ones that are the biggest challenge of that sojourn. It starts tonight in Philadelphia with the Flyers, continues tomorrow night at TD Garden in Boston against the Bruins, and concludes in Newark, New Jersey against the Devils on Thursday.

Light fare against three playoff bound teams.

Philadelphia is the first challenge, and one has to wonder what kind of sideshow Peter Laviolette has in store for Mother Corporate's viewing audience on NBC Sports tonight? You do recall the sideshow acts of two of the three meetings this season between these clubs, right? In the first instance, Flyers head coach Laviolette - with the vocal blessings of Keith Jones and Mike Millbury during the then-Versus telecast - had his club stall and stall again in an attempt to thwart Tampa Bay's 1-3-1 defensive scheme on November 7th. Millbury claimed that the Flyers were standing up for hockey by stalling, and Tampa Bay was made out to be the bad guy for... well, you know, playing defense...

Then, in late December, there was the (seemingly made-for-TV and HBO 24 / 7) social call that Scott Hartnell paid to the Tampa Bay Lightning bench during a team huddle. That incident didn't have the lasting impact of the November 7th game, nor the national TV audience.

So what kind of disrespect can we expect tonight, if not from the Flyers directly then from the Versus NBC Sports crew covering the game?

Ilya Bryzgalov will be starting in goal tonight for the Flyers. As of this writing, there has not been a starter named for the Lightning. Whoever doesn't start tonight will likely be facing the Boston Bruins tomorrow night.

In case you hadn't heard (and I'm pretty sure you have), Steven Stamkos notched goals #51 and #52 during Saturday's win over the Islanders at Times Palace. He has tied the single-season mark for most goals by a Lightning player (Vincent Lecavalier scored 52 in 2006-07).

On another side note, the Lightning gets re-introduced to Pavel Kubina tonight. Pavel was traded to the Flyers in February for a 2nd round draft pick. This will be the third former Lightning franchise member the Bolts have faced since they were moved in the lead up to (and on) the 2012 NHL trade deadline. Tampa Bay has already faced defenseman Matt Gilroy (Ottawa) and former prospect Carter Ashton (Toronto).

One final note: He's not expected to play, but Captain Vinny Lecavalier has traveled with the team on this road trip. If things go well, he could make his return... He's just not expected to just yet.

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