Some teams in the NHL had to start their season with back-to-back games (hello, Calgary Flames... Who are also playing three games in four nights)? For the Tampa Bay Lightning, the challenge is a little less formidable, or a lot more formidable. A three-game opening road trip is at the midway point tonight, but it's more the fact that the first two games of the season are against the Stanley Cup Finalists of 2013 (and two of the past three Stanley Cup champions) that seems quite intimidating.
That and the fact that at some point in time tonight, the Lightning will go on the power play and will be expected to keep Chicago from scoring.
In case you missed it, and the ridicule that was due the team for its gaffes, Tampa Bay went on the power play five times against the Bruins and allowed 2 short-handed goals. One of those goals was derived from a penalty shot.
While this was ridiculous, it was also more of the same for the Lightning, who gave up 16 short-handed goals over the course of the past two seasons (130 games, thank you 2012 NHL lockout). This is definitely an aspect the team will have to work on going forward... Because having a negative power play percentage just isn't going to work. (For the record, there is no "negative" power play percentage... But in this case, there should be.)
Defenseman Sami Salo is expected to play tonight after his undisclosed injury on Thursday resulted in Tampa Bay starting rookie Mark Barberio at the last minute (he had 16:36 of ice time and was a plus-1). Barberio was one of a total of eight Syracuse Crunch alumni playing for the Bolts that night, a team carrying nine total, five of them considered NHL rookies (Barberio, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Radko Gudas and Andrej Sustr).
The bigger shock, for this writer at least, was Sustr being inserted into the lineup as a starter from the get-go. Sustr's ascent and the team's fondness for him was shown earlier in the week from remarks by assistant GM Julien BriseBois. Sustr played 20:03 on Thursday and was minus-1.
Ben Bishop is likely to start for the Lightning tonight, his first start o the season. It'll be Corey Crawford in net for the Blackhawks. Anders Lindback wasn't horrible in Boston, giving up one even-strength goal, but it was known prior to that game (and prior to much of the preseason) that Tampa Bay's goalies would be splitting playing time, at least early on.
Despite the fact the Lightning have a single goal in a single game played this season, I'll end this preview with a little factoid (and picture) shared by Sun Sports Paul Kennedy this morning that might generate some optimism:
Game thread opens at 7:30, we'll see you then.
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