WHERE: St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
WHEN: 7:30 PM EST
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable), 620 WDAE (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Broad Street Hockey
The Lightning's week-long vacation is over. Time to get your head out of the clouds with spectacle of the All Star game, time to stop contemplating the logo and uniform changes, time to put all of that stuff behind you. It's happened. The hoopla is over, let's get back to hockey now.
It's business tonight, and its high stakes business at that. The Tampa Bay Lightning, the #2 team in the Eastern Conference Standings, faces off against the #1 team in the East, the Philadelphia Flyers. The 10-2-0-in-their-past-Twelve-games Philadelphia Flyers.
Still want to focus on the sideshows from the past week?
I thought not.
Ryan Malone remains out for the Lightning with a "mid-body injury", that hurts. Not as much as the fact a week of rest didn't clear it up. Mattias Ohlund is also hurting but is expected to play... I'm not sure what Mike Lundin's status for tonight is.
Mentioning the Flyers hot streak (8-2-0 in their past 10, 10-2-0 in their past 12), I neglected to mention the Lightning's own hot streak of late. They are 7-3-0 in their past 10 and went 9-4-0 in January. That's a pretty good run, but it doesn't highlight the flaw of the Lightning system this season: The big loss. The huge loss. It's the one issue that the Bolts hope to have corrected with Dwayne Roloson in net, but it's also an issue with the defense in front of Roloson (or Ellis, or Smith, or Desjardins, or whomever).
You see, the Bolts Goals-For / Goals Against remains just too close for comfort. With Roloson's strong play, and continued tight GF/GA, that goaltending getting hung out to dry by defensive lapses is an issue that must be corrected.
That, or the Bolts need to start having additional offensive slugfest contests instead of rolling-over and playing-dead. November's ridiculous 8-7 victory over the Flyers is an example of not rolling over.
It's also an anomaly in the NHL season. Games like that do not happen often, and I don't expect anything near it tonight at TImes Palace.
Philadelphia is in the middle of the league on the power play -- ranked 15th with a 17.7% conversion rate. The Lightning are 7th with a 20.8% conversion rate. On the flip side, the Flyers penalty kill unit is 11th int he NHL with an 83.2% kill rate. The Bolts are 6/10th of a point better, ranked 9th with a 83.8 kill rate.
One last note: Simon Gagne has 6 goals in the past 8 games, while Matt Walker was waived by the Flyers...
Same flaw as before.
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