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Lightning stop at home real quick, take on Wild (preview)

WHERE: St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
WHEN: 5 PM EST
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable), live radio stream from TBL.com
OPPONENT COVERAGEHockey Wilderness

The team announced on Twitter this morning that LW Simon Gagne, on IR since October 21st, has skated the past two days.  That's a good bit of news.  Another good bit of news is that Steve Downie is a maybe for today's game against the Wild.  "Maybe" is a lot better than a definite no.

But the injuries are indeed sapping this team.  The only thing that I wonder is when we'll see someone step up leadership wise and rally the troops and charge in the stead of wounded captain Vincent Lecavalier.

As Cassie noted in her recap of Friday's loss to the Penguins, I noticed a striking similarity to the Bolts loss at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers last November when Rick Tocchet tried to send a message to Vincent Lecavalier.  It seemed like the entire morale of the team was sapped by the action.

And with Vinny out Friday, it was a repeat performance by a group of (mostly) different individuals.  

When Dominic Moore was out during the western road trip of recent weeks, I noticed a missing spark with the boys.  That resulted in the start of the road losing streak that Lightning fans are lamenting.  Friday, with Moore in and Lecavalier out, the moxie was missing.  The spunk.  The bravado.

I'm not saying the effort was gone, but an element was missing.  That was why the Bolts looked like they were playing on their heels more times than not and focusing on defense and not so much on offense.  Oh, Steven Stamkos still managed to score, but beyond that there was a whole lot of nothing.

And the Lightning can't compete by just hoping Stamkos scores.  It's a team effort.

A couple of weeks back, there was a FanPost asking when Stamkos would become captain of the Lightning...  If he is to take any sort of leadership role -- now is the time for him to step to the plate and lead.  And leading is more than just tallying goals.

...

Dan Ellis gets the start in net tonight for the Lightning in a game some would look at as a gimmie.  The Bolts are facing the Minnesota Wild and the Wild are not exactly at the top of the food chain in the Western Conference.  Yet there is only one win that separates the two teams in the standings.  That, and the Wild have a game in hand.

The Wild are also giving up only 2.33 goals a game on average.  of course, the other side of that is they are only scoring 2.27 goals on average a game.

Yet this is starkly not a gimmie game.  This is not a breather.  This is the Bolts third game in four nights and it will not come easy.

The Wild are 2nd in the league on the power play, converting 27.7% of their chances.  The Bolts remain a non-pushover themselves.  They're 6th in the league with a 22.5% conversion rate with the man advantage.  On the penalty kill, it's no different as both teams are atop the conference standings.  The Bolts are 2nd in teh NHL with a 89.9 kill rate and the Wild are not far behind with a 87.5 -- good for fourth in the league.

The Bolts will be back on the road after this game...  

 

Other Previews

Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview

Bolts 2 Cup

TSN