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Reunions; Tampa Bay Lightning at New York Rangers preview

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Callahan, Stralman and Boyle face the Rangers as foes... and Martin St. Louis does the same against the Lightning.

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Marty faces the Bolts for the first time as a Blueshirt.
Marty faces the Bolts for the first time as a Blueshirt.
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Where:  Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
When: 7 PM EST | Tickets: Check availability
Media: Sun Sports, Sportsnet ONE (cable) | 970 AM WFLA (radio) | Twitter Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: Blueshirt Banter, Save by Richter

There are a number of players who created legacies for themselves with certain teams, and they now face those teams as opponents for the first time.

  • Ryan Callahan: Former team captain of the New York Rangers, known and revered for his blue collar work and skill with the Rangers.
  • Anton Stralman: He was added to the Blueshirts years ago and became a standard bearer on the Rangers blue line... But was not offered a new contract last summer.
  • Brian Boyle: Another long-time Ranger forward known for grit and special team skill
  • Martin St. Louis: ...

Ah, yes, #26 faces the Tampa Bay Lightning for the first time since his trade request was fulfilled early this year. Let's not rehash the drama from the transaction because it's played out and festered longer than it should in Lightning fans collective consciousness.  No, I'm not saying "get over it" like columnist Tom Jones insisted last spring... I am saying that we move forward with a hurt or anger or heartache carried with us as fans for how it transpired and the tactlessness tied to it.

It happened. It's over. Yet in the next two weeks (tonight, on November 28th and December 1st) the Lightning and Rangers will square off in the entirety of their regular-season series and we'll get a good dose of nostalgia and/or hurt and anger over and over again if we let it get to us.

It's Marty, though, with 13 points on the season (6 goals, 7 assists).  This dude is dangerous when he has a bone to pick of his own, and I'm not just saying that from the take-his-ball-and-go-somewhere-else tantrum from last winter/spring.  I'm saying that from 14 years of evidence we've seen first-hand that Martin St. Louis will raise his game and make fools of opponents when he's got something personal on the line / a bone to pick / a grudge. The most recent evidence (for Lightning fans when he was still in Tampa Bay) was his "this is what you're missing" score-fest against the San Jose Sharks last January. We've seen him pull it off elsewhere under various circumstances in the past, and when the club needed him the most.

It's Marty.  We know this.  We should expect this... And Jon Cooper and Co. damned well better prepare for it as well as the other 17 New York Rangers on ice tonight, especially league goal scoring leader Rick Nash (he's got 12 so far this season, sharing the league lead with Tyler Seguin).

Perhaps it's best to realize the Rangers are in the same boat in a way - three players from the immediate past square off against them, returning to the Garden as opponents for the first time since joining the Lightning. It's a lot easier for me to point out what to be wary of from the guy Bolts fans have a legacy with than to point to Cally, Stralman and Boyle and say "look out, they're comin' for you!"

It's worth noting that Callahan has as many points (13, 6 goals, 7 assists) in fewer game s (13 as to 17) than Marty. Anton Stralman has 10 and is playing as the team's #1 defenseman as the club awaits the return of Victor Hedman to the lineup. Brian Boyle is part of a productive 4th line unit, producing his own 8 points so far this season (5 goals, 3 assists).

Perhaps the facing-old-team factor will favor the Lightning more than the Rangers tonight? Perhaps it's the November 28th game at the Amalie where an emotional St. Louis must be feared the most. It's better to be wary of him in both cases.

This is the first game of a back-to-back series in New York. Tomorrow, the Lightning takes the bus out to Uniondale and faces the Islanders for the second time in four days. The Rangers are a sub-.500 club (when you factor in that Overtime/Shootout loses are still loses) at 7-6-4. While they're tied with the New Jersey Devils for 3rd in the Metro Division, it's by way of their game in-hand over New Jersey (17 games played as to 18).

The Lightning have been reduced to 2nd place in the Atlantic Division, if you can call it that.  Montreal leads the division with 29 points at the moment (19 games played, 14-4-1) as to Tampa Bay's 26 (18 games played, 12-4-2 record).

On special teams: The Lightning have fallen a bit on power play percentage, they're 6th overall in the league with a 23.8% conversion rate. The Rangers, on the other hand, are in the bottom third of the NHL with a 14.3% efficiency with the man-advantage.  That's good for 22nd place.

On the penalty kill, the two teams are much closer in the standings - Tampa has improved in recent games, but their 81.4% kill-rate is ranked 14th overall in the league. The Rangers have an 80.4% effectiveness when down a man, 18th overall in the league.

Best guess is that we'll see Ben Bishop against Henrik Lundqvist in goal tonight. It isn't clear if Jonathan Drouin will be in the lineup, or who else might be taken out to enable Cedric Paquette to play; Dump Truck has 5 goals in 9 games played with the Lightning. With players getting healthy, he might be returned to the Syracuse Crunch at any time, but he's certainly making his case to stick around as long as possible in the NHL.

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