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Emotions at the start of the holiday season; Tampa Bay Lightning versus Philadelphia Flyers preview

We saw a superstar on the road to recovery Monday, we honored a superstar for his efforts Monday night, and tonight we welcome back a former hero wearing the colors of a heated rival.

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Vinny in orange and black...  That's just wrong...
Vinny in orange and black... That's just wrong...
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Where: Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
When: 7:30 PM EST | Tickets: Check availability
Media: Sun Sports (cable) | 970 AM WFLA (radio)
Opponent Coverage: Broad Street Hockey, Orange and Black Pack

Thanksgiving tends to be an emotional time of year for various reasons - we give thanks for what we have and what the Earth has yielded to us through the summer season. Black Friday gives us the emotion of rage, greed, and-OOH! Look! A $10 big screen TV! Hey! Hands off buddy, I'm getting that box! I will not be denied!!!

Excuse me; I lost my shit there for a minute...

Emotions can run high for various reasons - travel difficulties to get with family for the holiday, dealing with family during the holiday, appreciating what you have, appreciating what you've gotten through... You give thanks in your own ways.

This week so far has been emotional in its own ways for the Tampa Bay Lightning and their faithful. Monday saw Steven Stamkos' first public press conference since breaking his leg earlier this month, and we were left amazed that he's walking without crutches on his road to recovery.

When the evening came, the Lightning and the NHL honored the 1,000 games-played milestone of #26 Martin St. Louis. The tribute was warm and touching. It invoked the pride and admiration we already have for him, and milked it so it pulled at you. Having Dave Andreychuk and (opponent that night but former teammate) Brad Richards involved in the ceremony further got to you, and Steven Stamkos limping out to partake in things was just icing on the cake.

But that was Monday.

Yesterday, former team captain Vincent Lecavalier made his return to Tampa, not as the storied #4 of the home team but as visiting #40 of the Flyers of Philadelphia. Vinny spoke to the media yesterday about a wide variety of thing that seem to range from the emotional to the surreal:

"I can't predict how I'm going to feel (today), but it's definitely going to be weird,'' Lecavalier said. "Just to put on the Philadelphia Flyers jersey for the first time was kind of weird. And you get used to it, but to actually play against the Lightning, I don't know how I'm going to feel. But it's going to be a special night. I'm really excited about it.''

And this is where I'm not sure how fans feel. Vinny's back. Vinny's a Flyer. The Flyers are in town. The Lightning are looking to continue righting their ship after that western sojourn saw the team fall down and go boom. The Flyers are in the midst of writing their own ship - they are 6-2-2 in their past 10 games and have resurrected their season after a moribund start.

If you feel the urge to recoil emotionally because Lecavalier is in town to play the Lightning, I can't exactly fault you. It's not exactly because he's back in town; it's because who he's with. I won't go for sentimentality here and instruct you to cheer when he's introduced as a player, but I will instruct you not to boo. Lecavalier deserves more respect than that.

It's when he's announced as a community hero and given his check - which may be part of pregame... That's when you stand up and cheer. You stand up and you cheer loud, and you cheer long. His philanthropy in the Tampa Bay area is due untold amounts of admiration and respect.

This may be a week of emotions, and Lecavalier will be honored as the Community Hero tonight by the club, but this is not a night to get lost in sentimentality. When the puck drops, it's down to business.

The Lightning and the Flyers have something sadly in common at the moment - both of their power play units are straddling the bottom-third of the league in efficiency at the moment. Tampa Bay is ranked 19th in the NHL with a 17.2% efficiency. The Flyers currently hover at 15.6%, which rates them 22nd in the league.

Both teams are more efficient on the penalty kill but the difference there is striking; TB currently is #3 overall in the league with an 86.1% kill-rate while the Flyers hover at 17th in the league with an 81.7% efficiency.

It's still developing as this preview is written but Ben Bishop left the ice early - and not in the normal "left the ice first, that means he starts" variety. It may be nothing but a big ouch for Ben, but it's something to keep an eye on through the remainder of the morning and the afternoon.

It would seem that the injury bug has not yet finished having it's way with the Lightning: the Bolts have recalled Dana Tyrell from Syracuse, likely to take the spot of Pierre-Cedric Labrie who left Monday's game against the New York Rangers after a little bit of fisticuffs.

This also means Ryan Malone and Tom Pyatt remain out. Pyatt is nearing his return date while Malone is day-to-day. I would not be shocked to hear of Pyatt getting a conditioning stint with Syracuse in the coming days - he had only one partial game under his belt before the collar bone break.

Radko Gudas was not in practice this morning either. He missed Monday due to his undisclosed injury. Dmitry Korobov had been recalled from Syracuse for insurance and was returned yesterday. With Tyrell in the lineup (he was seen practicing with Nate Thompson and B.J. Crombeen this morning), and knowing the Lightning like to have insurance on D, I'm wondering if Keith Aulie is available again? That hasn't been made clear.

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