WHERE: St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
WHEN: 7 PM EST
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable), 620 WDAE (radio)
OPPONENT BLOG(S): Habs Eyes on the Prize
If there is proof necessary to show how muddied the bottom of the NHL playoff contention group is, you need not look any further than tonight's matchup between the LIghtning and the Canadiens from Times Palace.
While the goalie sideshow is a topic Habs fans will argue about to no end (Halak over Price, give Price a fair say, etc), the Canadiens team is comparably inconsistent to the Lightning. And much like the Lightning, the Canadiens lost to the Florida Panthers (who are not a team of world-beaters, but have been made to look like such by other middle-of-the-pack teams).
So the Bolts go into tonight looking for a three-game winning streak, which they have not had in a year's time. For the Habs, who are playing for the second night in a row, they're looking to rebound and regain traction in the race for the playoffs.
While I noted the Lightning and Habs have similar inconsistencies, it is also worth noting that the Canadiens special teams -- both power play unit and penalty kill unit -- is probably the best special team unit in the league. Many times I've pointed out big differences between the power play percentage and the penalty kill percentage for any given team. The Habs have the 2nd best power play unit (25.4%) in the league, and the 7th best penalty kill unit (84.5%) in the league. The difference is they've consistently been at the top of both units.
If the Lightning play a sloppy game tonight, taking penalty after penalty like they have in other games, they give this to Montreal on a platter. The Bolts have to play a disciplined game and have to do their work at even strength.
David Hale was sent to Norfolk of the AHL by the Lightning yesterday on a conditioning assignment yesterday. Hale has seen much less playing time of recent with thanks to the play of Mike Lundin and Matt Smaby (the guys he had trumpe dint eh lineup for most of the early season). With whispers and rumors of Paul Ranger showing up sometime soon, there should be another warm body to send down for conditioning soon enough. Ranger, who has not played much hockey over the last two seasons, has been away from teh team for personal reasons. Ranger, if he does return sometime soon, should not be injected into the Lightning lineup until he's back in game shape.
Tampa Bay Lightning Projected Lines
(updated January 27, 2010 by Raw Charge - subject to change)
Ryan Malone - Vincent Lecavalier - Jeff Halpern
Steve Downie - Steven Stamkos - Martin St. Louis
Brandon Bochenski - Paul Szczchura - Alex Tanguay
Nate Thompson - Zenon Konopka - Kurtis Foster
Mattias Ohlund - Mike Lundin
Matt Walker - Victor Hedman
Andrej Meszaros - Matt Smaby
Antero Niittymaki (starter)