WHERE: RBC Center, Raleigh, North Carolina
WHEN: 7 PM EDT
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable), 970 WFLA (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Canes Country
The 82nd and final regular season game for the Tampa Bay Lightning is here, and it all comes down to this.
It all comes down to this; the finality for the regular season. The second season starts next week.
But it all comes down to this...For Carolina and the New York Rangers. The Lightning get to play the spoiler for one of those teams tonight at RBC Center in Raleigh. The Tri-State area, Ranger faithful throughout the world, and of course our friends at Blueshirt Banter, are pulling for the Bolts mightily tonight. Meanwhile, the Carolina Hurricanes control their own destiny and clinch the eighth seed with a win.
The Blueshirts may very well be at a disadvantage tonight. Oh, sure, John Tortorella and the Rangers must win their own contest, a 12:30 matinée at Madison Square Garden against the New Jersey Devils... But they also need a Lightning win to clinch the 8th seed in the East.
I stress the Rangers being at a disadvantage from a notes post by Damien Cristodero at the St. Pete Times:
Because tonight's regular-season finale against the Hurricanes won't affect home-ice advantage, coach Guy Boucher might sit or limit the minutes of some of his regulars.
Call-ups from AHL Norfolk also are possible.
That might not go over too well with the Rangers, who are battling Carolina for the final playoff spot in the East. But Boucher, who admitted the situation is "touchy," said the focus has to be on his team.
"It has nothing to do with Carolina or the Rangers," he said. "We have to care about our team. We're going to the playoffs. We're going to think of our team (today)."
It all comes down to this. Fortunately, that isn't the case for the Lightning
In more playoff seeding discussion, the Bolts are 5th seed in the Eastern Conference. They play their first two playoff games on the road against either the Pittsburgh Penguins or Philadelphia Flyers. The Pens and Flyers are in a tie for points at current, with 104 each. The Atlantic Division title remains on the line at this late date.
As you can see, my focus is squarely on the rest of the league with this preview. There are few notes for this game to really share. The importance is on the Hurricanes, unless the Rangers lose big time to the Devils this afternoon. At that point, both teams in Raleigh would be bringing their B-game tonight, while thinking forward to the start of the 2011 NHL Playoffs and the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
Mike Smith starts in goal tonight for the Bolts. Victor Hedman, Ryan Malone and others may very well sit tonight. The Lightning may make call-ups from AHL Norfolk, but the team does not want to screw over the Ads own playoff seeding chase.
The Lightning have improved to a tie for ninth in the NHL on the penalty kill, with an 83.7% kill rate. They will likely end the season in sixth in the NHL on the power play (20.6% conversion rate at the moment). The Hurricanes, on the other hand, have the 21st rated penalty kill unit in the league, stopping 81.2% of opposing power plays. They are converting 15.9% of power play opportunities, ranking them 24th in the league.
Martin St. Louis' 96 points is the second most points he has scored in a season. His 66 assists are a career high.
The Raw Charge game thread will go live at 6:30 PM. This will be the last game thread of the season that starts 30 minutes before game time. All playoff game threads will start at least an hour before the puck drops.
Full game coverage on SB Nation