The big national story for tonight is if the Philadelphia Flyers will pull a repeat performance to protest - again - the use of the Tampa Bay Lightning's 1-3-1 formation. It'll be the game within the game of "will they or won't they". It's doubtful that the Flyers have it in them to try to pull that kind of stunt in front of their own fans. It's so much easier to be unconventional at away games, where a team will be judged less harshly for such behavior.
But that's what the national and Canadian hockey media is all over. It was such great drama the last time, that there's a hope that it'll happen for a second time. Likely, it won't. The Flyers came out of that looking far more foolish than the Lightning did by far.
The drama continued with the GM meetings that followed. The discussion was more about how the Flyers reacted than what the Lightning did. But it was no real surprise that nothing came of that. The Lightning were "allowed" to continue what they normally do, and the Flyers weren't punished for not playing.
While the rest of the hockey world will be focusing on the past Lightning-Flyers game, the Lightning have far more important things to worry about.
The irreplaceable Martin St. Louis will miss his second game in a row with facial and nasal fractures. He's expected back in Tampa today. He had recuperated for a bit in his Connecticut home with his wife until he felt well enough to travel. He will be re-evaluated in Tampa upon his return.
How the Lightning play this game will determine how they will likely play for the duration of St. Louis's time out of the lineup. The reason that they won the last game was because of Artem Animisov's goal celebration. And there's nothing like anger to help you get through a tough game.
They probably won't have something like that this time around, and they'll have the added distraction of the previous game with the Flyers hanging over their heads. They'll have to pull themselves up by the boot straps all by themselves and slog this one out together. They're capable of doing so, but with considering their track record thus far this season, it's not a sure thing. Now that they've had a couple of days to digest the loss of St. Louis on the ice and in the dressing room, we'll see exactly what this team is made of.
Mattias Ohlund is still out due to his double knee surgeries, Pavel Kubina (lower body injury) is not expected to play against the Flyers as well, Evan Oberg was sent back to the Norfolk Admirals - presumably because whichever other defenseman that was questionable when he was brought up is now okay, and while he may not be out of the lineup, Blair Jones did smash his face on Henrik Lundqvist's mask two nights ago resulting in a bloody nose.
Another loss is Brett Connolly. He was released by the Lightning to play for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships in Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta. It's a bit of a surprising move, considering that Connolly's been playing pretty well.
On the bright side, Nate Thompson will be returning to the lineup after missing one game with an upper body injury. Steve Downie is not expected to be penalized for coming off of the bench as presumably part of a line change during the brawl following the Anisimov goal celebration incident from THursday, so he is expected to be in the lineup as well.
At the time of this writing, no other players have been called up from Norfolk to fill any additional holes. The Lightning have 20 healthy players on a 23-man roster. Which means that the Lightning are intentionally playing three players short at the moment.
On a final note, from 8 December....
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