Were you aware the Florida Panthers had a pipe organ to BankAtlantic Center? No? Neither was I. Just a mite smaller than what the Lightning have employed in the 300 level of the St. Pete Times Forum. That's besides the point, though.
The point? The point is hockey. The Lightning play their fifth game of the season tonight in Sunrise, the final game of a five game, season opening road trip. They come home to a revamped Times Palace on Monday and open a three game homestand against the Panthers, Isles and Sabres.
First things first though, and that's ending the road trip: the first game of a home-and-home affair with the 1-1-0 Panthers. The Cats are starting a busy week, playing five games in seven nights, including three games in four nights. Suffice it to say, the Panthers slow opening week gives way to a venerable rhythm section, with games against the Bolts (2), Capitals, Islanders and Sabres this week.
And the Lightning? This is Raw Charge, after all. What about the Bolts?
Well, they have work to do to mentally get back into competition, and get past recent performances that made them out to be pretenders, not contenders.
Tom Pyatt and Blair Jones are both in the lineup tonight after sitting the past two and three games, respectively. Who is ou? Speculation is Teddy Purcell will sit, after being benched during the third period on Thursday. Will Mattias Ritola sit? I highly doubt that after his effort was one of the bright spots in Thursday's manhandling by the Islanders. This morning's reports from practice indicate it will be Ryan Shannon who will watch the game from the press box.
Whatever, the lineup will be different tonight. That's not a surprise, as things have not been working the past three games - even if the Washington game was close. The Bolts have gotten away from what made them successful last season. There's a difference in when this team is playing, and how. From Coach Boucher yesterday:
"It's a different year, different situation. And we've got to grind it out every game. And even if we play at our best and play desperate hockey and give everything we've got, we might lose. Why? Because the other team is desperate and wants to make the playoffs and needs to prove something."
I believe the general term, which is both fitting and yet cliché, usually employed in these circumstances is hunger. The Lightning lack it, while opponents have it. Can you say any of Tampa Bay's opponents so far this season -- Carolina, Boston, Washington, or the Islanders -- haven't come out like they wanted something? Carolina collapsed. Washington had poor goaltending. That doesn't take away from the effort put forward by either team.
But the effort by the Lightning?
Effort, desperation, hunger, desire. It's all cliché but it's all factual as well. The Bolts need to raise their game up by wanting to raise their game and acting upon it. It's one thing to accept blame for things that go wrong. It's another correct the mistakes.
Florida's got to be hungry tonight, they want to show the world they are legit after their summer revamping. And of curse, they would love nothing more than to actually make the mythical Lightning/Panthers rivalry an actual rivalry once again.
One final note: The Bolts remain perfect on the penalty kill this season, while the Panthers are also perfect (7 short-handed situations, no goals allowed) in their two games so far this season.
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