At odds with Ottawa; Lightning versus Senators preview

Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

After being swept last season by the Senators, the Lightning hope to turn over a new leaf tonight against Ottawa.

WHERE: Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
WHEN: 7:30 PM EST | | TICKETS: Check Availability
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable), 970 WFLA (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Silver Sevens

The Bolts kick off a season long homestand of five games this evening with their contest against their bane and expansion brethren, the Ottawa Senators.

I don't think I have to elaborate on that bane part, do I? The Bolts were 0-4-0 against the Sens last season. The February 14th game last season could be argued as the one that had the biggest effect on the Bolts last season. It was after that 4-0 loss that the team began their selloff of veteran talent for draft picks. By the end of that February four-game homstand, the Bolts had traded away defenseman Pavel Kubina, center Dominic Moore, and forward Steve Downie.

...and managed to salvage the homestand with a 3-1-0 record, underlining the inconsistency of the team.

But that was then, this is now. Ottawa is rolling to start this season, utilizing goaltender Craig Anderson and his 0.67 goals against average and .974 save percentage to run to a 3-0-0 start. Anderson was the goalie of record last night as the Ottawa shut down the Florida Panthers 3-1 in Sunrise.

So that's a plus, right? The Lightning is catching Ottawa on the flip-side of back-to-back games. And while Anderson is the 2nd hottest goalie in the league right now (behind New Jersey's Martin Brodeur), it'll be Ben Bishop likely starting in net for the Sens.

For the Lightning, it'll be Anders Lindback making his 3rd start of the season and a combined height between two opposing netminders of 13 feet, 1 inch - as Lindback is listed as 6'6" and Bishop stands 6'7").

Though some people are already panicking that Lindback has given up seven goals in his two starts, the real concern should be how the team in front of him has played those respective games. Opening night, the Bolts came out sloppy against Washington (to be expected, as it was their first game since April 2012). On Long Island Monday afternoon, Tampa Bay failed to put in a quality effort until the 3rd period when the team was already down 4-0 to the Islanders. Anders stopped 40 shots of a 44 shot barrage he faced, while the Lightning offense only mustered 26 shots all game.

You want goaltenders that can steal you games, but you shouldn't expect a goaltender to solve every issue with the team playing in front of him. Limiting shots, stifling the opponent's offensive attack? That role lies on Lightning forwards and defensemen. The goalie - Lindback, Mathieu Garon, whoever else - is the last line of defense and shouldn't be expected to serve as the only line of defense.

Tonight will also mark Vincent Lecavalier's 1,002nd NHL game... And with the team playing at home again, the organization will honor him before the game: Awarding the team captain with a silver stick to commemorate the 1,000 game milestone and other goodies and honors to commemorate the benchmark before the puck drops this evening. Vinny is one of three players that should be in the lineup tonight that has broken the 1,000 game plateau, with Ottawa's Chris Phillips and Daniel Alfredsson being the other two.

One last minor note: The Lightning's 3rd jersey ("Bolts") will make its season debut tonight, per the team . And for those who click on the link, that's a black practice jersey being worn in the picture.

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