The Tampa Bay Lightning left Ottawa on Saturday, and while the next game was played in Winnipeg, the team itself has been in Limbo - between worlds - ever since. That's not to discredit the players or assistants Martin Raymond, Dan Lacroix and Steve Thomas... It's more about the fact the Lightning's future is clouded and unclear at the moment.
Yes, the head coaching situation is resolved with Jon Cooper being named Head Coach. Jon Cooper is not going to be behind the bench and calling the shots in tonight's tilt against the Buffalo Sabres. Cooper's Law will not rein down upon this team just yet.
In essence, the location of 401 Channelside Drive is now Limbo; Population: Tampa Bay Lightning. We wait as the transition commences. I'll come back to this (or will try) in a different piece... As I said on Sunday morning, we move forward... And it's game day.
The Sabres represent another team that could not settle for mediocrity during the abbreviated 2013 season. Long time coach Lindy Ruff was sent packing and Ron Rolston was brought up from the Rochester Americans of the AHL to take over. Rolston is living what's in store for Cooper; a trial by fire (though Rolston has "Interim" attached to his coaching title while Cooper will not). While the Sabres are still last in the juggernaut that is known as the Northeast Division, their 30 points has lifted them out of the basement of the National Hockey League, where they had been kicking around earlier in the season; they are all of three points from the #8 seed New York Rangers in the conference standings.
And much like Winnipeg on Sunday, this is a game they need to take advantage of if they're going to vie for the post-season and complete a remarkable turnaround. Only thing that may lead the team to doubt its chances against a reeling Lightning team is its record against the Southeast Division this season: The Sabres have earned all of 4 points in 9 games against the NHL's weakest division.
Ryan Miller will get the nod for the Sabres, while it's unclear if the Lightning will go with Mathieu Garon or Cedrick Desjardins in net. Garon has been the goalie on record during all too many of the Bolts early collapses - such as Saturday in Ottawa, or earlier in the week in Toronto. His record is 3-8-0 and his save percentage has dropped down tot eh Frantz Jean staple of .904 while his goals against average has ballooned to 3.00.
Desjardins hasn't fared much better, his GAA is also 3.00 flat and his save percentage is an ugly .890... I'd still opt to start him if the decision was up to me.
A lineup question that hasn't been answered for this game is if B.J. Crombeen is good to go or Pierre-Cedric Labrie for that matter? Crombeen sat on Sunday and it was announced he had an injury. Nacho, on the other hand, sustained an upper-body injury during the loss to Winnipeg. In all the hoopla over coaching, it was missed that Labrie has gone to Injured reserve. A call up may be inevitable but as of this writing, nothing has been announced.
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