WHERE: St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
WHEN: 7:30 PM EST
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable), 620 WDAE (radio)
OPPONENT BLOG: Bird Watchers Anonymous
(updated 1.23.2010 at 9:00 AM EST)
Despite the Lightning shooting-themselves in the foot last week with back-to-back losses to divisional foe Florida, they are still in with the pack for contention. While the Panthers and tonight's opponents, the Atlanta Thrashers, are just as outside-looking-in as the Lightning are right now -- all three teams are on teh threshold of moving into the playoff back if they can get on a hot-streak. Going into today's action, the #8 seed in the east has all of 54-points.
That's adds to the weight of how crucial those lost games to Florida were, and how crucial tthe team's remaining games are.Nate Thompson should be in the lineup tonight for the Lightning, his first game since being picked off waivers from the New York Islanders. Who else will be in the lineup tonight? Victor Hedman, returning from a one-game sabbatical. Coach Tocchet remarked about how Hedman took his healthy scratch from Thursday:
"I think he’s really going to respond,'' he said after the Saturday morning skate. "He was really chipper today. You could tell that. Maybe it’s a little bit of a weight off his shoulders just taking that game off.''
We can only hope that's the case.
The Bolts compensated for not having Hedman in the lineup on Thursday by dressing seven defensemen (with Kurtis Foster playing at forward). There's no telling which D-man -- Foster, David Hale, or potentially another -- will be scratched tonight.
The Thrashers are 15th int he league on the power play with a 18.2% conversion rate (led by Ilya Kovalchuk's 10 goals and 9 assists durignthe man advantage). But it's more of note that the Lightning are now ranked 10th in the league on the power play. In the last eight games, the power play has converted better than 30% of power play opportunities (11 for 36, or 30.6% ). That's a striking change that could have quiet an effect on the team's fortunes.
The Thrashers are killing off 79.6% of penalties against the team, rankign them 22nd in the NHL. The Lightning are at 79%, good for 25th in the NHL.
Slava Kozlov will be out tonight for the Thrashers.
Atlanta Line Combos:
Starting goalie: Johan Hedberg
Tampa Bay Lightning Projected Lines
(updated January 23, 2010 by Raw Charge - subject to change)
Ryan Malone - Vincent Lecavalier - Alex Tanguay
Steve Downie - Steven Stamkos - Martin St. Louis
Nate Thompson - Jeff Halpern - Paul Szczchura
Todd Fedoruk - Zenon Konopka - Stephane Veilleux
Mattias Ohlund - Mike Lundin
Kurtis Foster - Victor Hedman
Andrej Meszaros - Matt Smaby
Antero Niittymaki (starter)
Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview