You ever wonder what players go through during back-to-back road games? It's not exactly something to romanticize about - having to leave one city late at night, arriving at the hotel elsewhere in the wee, small hours of the morning for a game later that day. You may get to take a nap on the plane during the journey, and of course the physical exhaustion from playing a hockey game may offset being wired from all the travel, the check-ins and check-outs, etc.
May. Not will.
The Pittsburgh Penguins played last night. After defeating the former-Atlanta Thrashers franchise, they had the luxury of going home and sleeping in their own beds (not to mention the creature comforts such as family, or even just being able to have a meal in peace). The Tampa Bay Lightning, on the other hand, had to make the sojourn between Buffalo, New York and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The trip isn't as annoying, nor as epic, as the Ottawa-to-Long Island, New York trip that the Bolts had to make between back-to-back games (having to go through customs, early in the morning, is a pleasure I don't even want to think about)... Yet it's still an extra physical taxation on the team that you don't want them to suffer before a battle with a squad of the Penguins caliber.
Everyone's twisted around, just ask Brendan Mikkelson (who suddenly plays for the New York Rangers) Its the flip side of back-to-back games for both clubs. Who has enough gas left in the tank after playing last night?
The Pens and former-Thrashers didn't just play last night; they put up 13 goals between them. Pittsburgh won, 8-5. While I've been mentioning the taxation of travel between games, putting up 8 goals on 39 shots when you're playing the next day may be over doing it. Evgeni Malkin had 5 points in the game. I'm not suggesting an offensive slugfest isn't the wisest of results in the first game of back-to-back contests, but you have to hope that may have taken something extra out of the ever-dominant Pens. Marc-Andre Fleury gave up 5 goals on 25 shots, I see no reason he won't be in net again tonight.
The Lightning have their own over-use issue to think about coming off their 2-1 win last night. Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman had a ton of ice time between them (24:44 and 25:18). Hedman was making up for the injured Matt Gilroy (who left the game with an upper body injury) in defensive rotation, while Stamkos was... Well, Seen Stamkos? While he notched his 37th goal of the season, Spicoli also did not register a single shot on goal in the 3rd period.
While the two young stars might be sapped for tonight (and I'm just musing in suggesting this - to go along with the rest of the narrative), there are potential reinforcements: Marc-Andre Bergeron, Ryan Malone and Adam Hall were all scratched lsst night and are fit to play. Malone would be making his return to the Lightning lineup (if he does indeed play) after missing the past 7 games with an upper body injury. Coming back to the Bolts in his hometown? Sounds interesting!
Mathieu Garon will be starting in goal again tonight for Tampa Bay, to quote Coach Boucher (via Damian Cristodero): "In the 3rd period he did what No. 1 goalies do, make the big save."
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