Last year, it was the Phillies and Rays doing the dancing in Major League Baseball's "Fall Classic" -- the apex of baseball, the World Series. It became just another example of the under-acknowledged rivalry between the two cities.
A rivalry that started on the ice sheet -- at least in the eyes of Tampa Bay fans.
The Bolts square off against the Flyers in an earlier-than-usual game at Wachovia Center late this afternoon (with thanks to the Phillies hosting the New York Yankees in game five fo the World Series). Both teams are far, far removed from the 1996 playoff series that helped build a grudge that has spanned three major sports. Of course, tonight's game is not looked at all like it's a rivalry game from anyone except those who always consider the Flyers the chief rivals of the Lightning (and that's sujbjective no matter where you go or who you ask). It's just another game -- one of 82. Just another game...
It's never just another game.
The big news for the Bolts going into this afternoon's matchup is Vincent Lecavalier's line getting shuffled around once again by coach Rick Tocchet. This time he's playing with third-line standards in Stephane Veilleux and Drew Miller on his wings. Tocchet claimed yesterday that Vincenzo needs to clean-up his game -- finish hits, more defensive-zone responsibility, etc... But in simplicity, things just aren't entirely clicking for Captain Lecavalier (1 goal, 9 assists, 10 points, -5) so far this season.
Meanwhile, the Flyers? 4th place in the Atlantic Division. If you had asked people if they expected teh Flyers to have the same number of points as the New York Islanders after the first month of play, most people would have laughed... But the Flyers have 13 points -- the same total as the Isles. They have a 26.4 Power Play percentage and 86% penalty kill percentage and are averaging mroe than 34 shots a game to opponents 29. In their last game, teh Flyers drubbed the Carolina Hurricanes 6-1.
Here's a little quirk to make you shake your head -- Matt Carle? Remember him? 12 points in 11 games so far this season and a plus-9 for the Flyers. He's been a bright spot on the Flyers blueline and there's talk about him being included on Team USA's Olympic roster.
Martin St. Louis will try to extend his point-per-game streak to 12... Playing alongside Steven Stamkos and Ryan Malone shouldn't hamper that effort one bit. Mike Smith is expected to start in net for the Lightning...
Tampa Bay Lightning Projected Lines
(updated November 2, 2009 by RawCharge subject to change)
Ryan Malone - Steven Stamkos - Martin St. Louis
James Wright - Jeff Halpern - Alex Tanguay
Stephane Veilleux - Vincent Lecavalier - Drew Miller
Todd Fedoruk - Zenon Konopka - Steve Downie
Mattias Ohlund | Victor Hedman
Kurtis Foster | Matt Walker
David Hale | Andrej Meszaros
Mike Smith (starter)