This was supposed to be the second time in about a week that the Lightning faced the New York Rangers on the flip-side of back-to-back games. They'd be coming off a (insert description using verbs, adverbs, adjectives) game against the Boston Bruins from the (afternoon... then or evening) before and then packed right up and made their way down to the City that Never Sleeps.
That was how it was supposed to be, past tense.
Instead, the Lightning rolled out of snow-bound Boston, Massachusetts yesterday afternoon by bus (once the travel ban in the city was lifted) with thanks to the cancellation of Saturday's game with the Bruins.
But that's the distraction from yesterday. It's over, done with, melting into the annals of team history. The focus now is on the Rangers. The focus now is on stopping the three game skid that started against this very Ranger team back at Times Palace on February 2nd.
The Rangers and Lightning had a mostly mirror-image schedule this week - playing on Tuesday, then on Thursday. The difference being the Rangers had Saturday off. Instead of having the advantage of playing a weary Lightning team, both squads should be at full strength for this one.
The big lineup change for the Lightning is that Dana Tyrell was waived yesterday, he has cleared waivers and will be out righted to the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL.
"It has nothing to do with Dana,'' Lightning assistant GM Julian BriseBois said to Lindsay Kramer of the Syracuse Post Standard. "We're just trying to change our mix at the NHL level."
The Lightning aren't just sending away one of their roster players for shits-and-giggles, they the club is also promoting first year* pro Alex Killorn to the NHL. Killorn, who played four seasons for the Harvard Crimson before making his professional debut last season with the Norfolk Admirals. He played all of 10 games with the Ads during the regular season, but was a feature on the club during its playoff run and Calder Cup win.
This season, Killorn has played 44 games with the Syracuse Crunch, racking up 38 points in that time (16 goals, 22 assists). Much like Tyrell, the 23 year old Killorn can play center but has seen most of his playing time on the wing, making him a versatile forward which coach Guy Boucher has fondness for. According to Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune, Killorn will start his NHL career tonight on the Lightning's third line on wing with Benoit Pouliot centering.
The Lightning will start Mathieu Garon in goal tonight, sticking with who they planned to start their next game. Garon had been slated to start in net yesterday versus the Bruins (with Anders Lindback likely going today against the Rangers). With the events of yesterday (or lack thereof), things have changed.
Despite the Lightning's recent offensive slowdown, they are still the #2 team in the NHL on the power play, converting over 29% of their chances... Compare that to the New York Rangers converting only 10% of man-advantage opportunities. Both teams are side-by-side in the standings regarding the penalty kill, with Tampa Bay ranked 15th with an 81% kill-rate and the Rags next at 16th with an 80.4% penalty kill efficiency.
If tonight's game is sloppy for both clubs, don't necessarily blame either team personally. Madison Square Garden is in basketball configuration at this moment (about 12:45 PM EST as I write this), with the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers squaring off in the World's Most Famous Arena. That's going to affect ice quality. Awkward bounces are just one of the many worries of poor ice quality that the Garden continues to be famous for even after major upgrades to the building.
We'll be live with the Raw Charge game thread at 7 PM per usual. Join us, won't you?
(final note, special thanks to Scott Thomas of Scott Thomas Photography who has shared with us some of his great shots from Syracuse this season.)
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