For the first time since January 21st-22nd, the Tampa Bay Lightning are participating in their own back-to-back series of games starting tonight with Winnipeg's former Thrashers franchise and continuing with the New York Rangers tomorrow night (which will conclude the team's five-game homestand).
Should Lightning fans expect that to have an effect on the team's performance tonight against the #2 team in the Southeast Division? Not likely, especially seeing that the Jets are playing the flip-side of their own back-to-back series tonight. That's right, for the 3rd time in 4 games, the Bolts will be facing an opponent that played the previous night (...in Sunrise, against the Panthers in all three cases).
That's opportunity knocking for Tampa Bay to take advantage of the situation and put some distance between themselves and the rest of the division. Games like these -not discrediting the opponent but playing up the situation - are times when good teams will take advantage of opponents' misfortune... even if that misfortune is simply playing for the second straight night.
That all may be moot, if the Jets play a puck-possession game (which they excelled at last season, frustrating this Lightning fan and plenty of others at times), the game should remain up-for-grabs... But if both teams are tasked with run-and-gun offenses... Well, both teams better hope that their squad showed up to play. The Jets giving up outright isn't in the cards, and the Lightning can't (and likely won't) be complacent despite their place in the standings.
Head Coach Guy Boucher indicated lineup changes are forthcoming for Saturday's affair with the Rangers, but for tonight the Bolts will roll the same lineup from previous games: Anders Lindback starts in goal, a 12-6 roster split with Dana Tyrell in the lineup while Marc-Andre Bergeron, Pierre-Cedric Labrie and Brendan Mikkelson scratched.
Speaking of Mikkelson, you may already be aware he took a nasty spill at the end-bards during practice on Thursday and was taken to Tampa General Hospital; he's day-to-day with the ambiguous "Upper Body Injury".
For the Jets, they're trying to stop a bit of bleeding right now as they've suffered two losses in a row - one at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens, the other was last night's affair in sunrise: a 6-3 win for the Florida Panthers. Ondrej Pavelec stopped 28 of 33 shots faced, and if Winnipeg head coach Claude Noel paces his goalies, we should see Al Montoya in net tonight. Montoya's last start (the first of the season) was a 5-4 overtime winner against the New York Islanders earlier this week.
Evander Kane, Blake Wheeler and Tobias Enstrom lead the way on the Jets offense with 8 points each so far, a rather even attack.
We answered a couple of questions for Arctic Ice Hockey regarding Lindback, the Bolts power play a certain center I like to refer to as Spicoli. Click on over and take a gander, if you will.
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