Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
When: 10:30 PM EST | Tickets: Check availability
Media: Sun Sports, Fox Sports West (cable) | 970 AM WFLA (radio)
Opponent Coverage: Jewels from the Crown, The Royal Half, Battle of California
October 9th, 1998 may stand out for ominous reasons for Lightning fans, as it was the start of another long and painful season; a 4-1 loss to the Florida Panthers in South Florida. I'd even go so far as to say that, at that time, a lot of current fans probably couldn't give half a care about the franchise. Casual fans who were aware of the Bolts weren't going to watch the steaming mess of the Lightning (despite a #1 draft pick named Lecavalier and the swagger of a new owner), and probably weren't exactly paying much attention to the broader NHL either.
Honestly, can you remember how much of a fan you were 15 years ago? Even if you were a die-hard, I seriously doubt you remember NHL lineups from that night unless we're talking about then-superstars and where they were playing at the time.
I have serious doubts that anyone in Tampa Bay made note of an undersized forward, making his NHL debut with the Calgary Flames that night; it was in Calgary, mountain-standard time, so it was a late start as was. This was before Gamecenter Live, and the popularity of NHL Center Ice wouldn't manifest for some time still. "Broadband" was a foreign word, and so was "audio streaming." You could get updates from other games on message boards or the Usenet, but largely I doubt anyone living in the Tampa/St. Petersburg metro area followed the Flames taking on the San Jose Sharks that night, and the NHL debut of rookie Martin St. Louis.
He recorded two shots on goal; he was an even plus/minus that night. The statistical record for the evening is pretty simple. This is before TOI found its way into box scores, and before the advanced statistics became a popular thing in hockey circles ("Corsi? Fenwick? Are these guys eligible for the 1999 draft or something?") So there isn't much of a record to go on for St. Louis that night (at least, not from a simple search.)
That was Game One. An inconspicuous start to a career that should eventual situates him within the hallowed halls of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. As of this writing he has 348 goals and 584 assists to his name. And while St. Louis' career with the Tampa Bay Lightning is now on 13 seasons old, his start in Tampa Bay was just as inconspicuous as his debut in this league.
If all goes as planned (and last time Marty was going to reach a games-played benchmark, things didn't go exactly as planned), Martin St. Louis will be playing in his 1,000th career NHL game tonight in Los Angeles. That's an achievement in longevity, in perseverance, and dedication to this sport.
There are other writers out there that have already touched on Marty's milestone - head over to Lightning Shout for Alexis Boucher's write up, and drop on over (...if you don't get slammed by the pay wall) to the Tampa Bay Times to read Tom Jones piece about #26's feat. Puck Daddy also has a Top 10 Feats of MSL story up.
Let's get down to business here, shall we? It's game two of a four game trek through the west. Tampa Bay was pretty much stopped and made fools of in Glendale by the Coyotes on Saturday night. The club continues to sit on top of the Eastern Conference with a 14-6-0 record, a single point ahead of the Boston Bruins.
Tonight will be episode four of the mid-season replacement series, "Life Without Steven" and so far ratings have been much more sound than expected. TV simile aside, Stamkos' immediate replacement in the lineup, Brett Connolly, has been doing all right in his out-of-position play at center the last few games. While point production hasn't been comparable to Steven Stamkos (and, really, who's does,) Connolly has been pretty much even in the faceoff circle, which has been better than Stamkos.
Of course, there are a couple of hundred less draws taken by Connolly than Stamkos, but still. 18 wins in 35 draws has been a sight better than the percentage that Stamkos. Point production, though? Connolly hasn't scored a point yet since Stamkos' injury, he's seeing his ice time trend upward, but putting a biscuit in the basket or getting an apple just hasn't happened yet. Yet.
It'll be Ben Scrivens between the pipes for the Los Angeles Kings tonight. Ben has become the Kings de facto #1 with the injury to Jonathan Quick... And it's not exactly a bad thing. Under head coach Darryl Sutter's system and with the tutelage of LA's people (and the influence of Quick), Scrivens' numbers are statistically awesome: a .955 save percentage, a 1.24 GAA and a 4-1-1 record.
Substantial playing time may ding those numbers, but Scrivens isn't just a throw-away backup that is easily interchangeable. Recalling the 2012 AHL Calder Cup Finals, he was the only member of the Toronto Marlies that seemed like he belonged in the series (which was conceded to the Norfolk Admirals in four games). That was the AHL though, this is the NHL. And Scrivens can play.
For Tampa Bay, it'll be Ben Bishop manning the crease. Bishop got his bell rung by a puck to the mask during the loss on Saturday. He has shown no ill effects and should be ready to go tonight. I'm assuming you'll see Anders Lindback in goal on Thursday in San Jose, with Bishop going Friday in Anaheim.
The time difference was the driving factor in this preview being posted so late. That's what you get with a three-hour time difference. Expect it on Thursday and likely Friday too.
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