Homestand finale; Tampa Bay Lightning versus New York Rangers preview

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

If Lightning fans are still glowing about last night's win, stop. It's time to get back down to work as the Bolts square off with the New York Rangers tonight.

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

If the Tampa Bay Lightning, be they roster players or fans for that matter, follow the mantra of former Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson, they had until about 10 AM to revel in last night's victory over the Winnipeg Jets. 12 hours to enjoy yourself and feel good about things before getting back to business. Yet, even affording themselves 12 hours of feeling good might be too much knowing they're lacing'em up and skating again tonight against John Tortorella's New York Rangers.

Last night's score is moot at this point. In fact, it could be seen as a liability: 8 goals for. Are they going to have the energy to play 60 minutes of hockey tonight against a somewhat-rested Rangers team? The Rangers played the Penguins on Thursday night in New York, getting shut out 3-0 in that one. Not only are the Rangers looking to rebound after that loss, but they're looking to get to .500 on the season.

Guy Boucher said post-game last night that the team's strategy changed with knowing there was hockey to be played tomorrow. It still doesn't ensure how the Lightning is going to handle this one. They haven't played back-to-back since January 21st-22nd, they've taken down 3 opponents (the Philadelphia Flyers, Ottawa Senators and the Jets) playing on the tail-end of their own back-to-back games. If those games serve as examples of what to expect, this could be a struggle.

But the Lightning aren't the Flyers, struggling with injuries and a thin defense. They're not the Jets. They're not the Senators either. All three clubs came into Tampa having played the night before, and all were dispatched.

If you think the team identity is the most potent offense in the league, I hate to pour cold water on you but Ondrej Pavelec isn't Henrik Lundqvist. Jose Theodore isn't Ilya Bryzgalov. Michael Leighton is not Martin Brodeur. And Ben Bishop is not Tuukka Rask. Those are the netminders that the Lightning is up against in their forthcoming road trip through the northeast.

[Note by John Fontana, 02/02/13 12:11 PM EST ]Martin Biron is no Henrik Lundqvist; Biron is slated to start tonight for the Rangers.

In other words, this past homestand to this point has been practice. Now, it's time for a test.

I have yet to hear word on Sami Salo's status for tonight.


Salo was rocked pretty good by Chris Thorburn, resulting in the match penalty against Thorburn and the 5 minute major call that gave the Lightning its scoring license for the evening by way of additional Winnipeg carelessness that resulted in 5-on-3 opportunities that the Lightning capitalized on. Salo did finish the game and had 17:56 of ice time for the night.

If Coach Boucher has any concern about Salo's condition, expect the Bolts to skate 11 forwards and 7 defensemen tonight, with Marc-Bergeron inserted. There had been talk of lineup changes for tonight, with Pierre-Cedric Labrie possibly playing, but with Brendan Mikkelson banged up, the team will not see as many fresh legs out there tonight as they had hoped.

Mathieu Garon will likely be the starting for the Bolts, his second start of the season.

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