Tuesday's shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres was a disappointment, as was the effort for too much of the game... But the Lightning were playing back-to-back and the Sabres were playing with the intent to prove they aren't as dreadful as, say, the Edmonton Oilers (...who Tampa Bay also has lost to this season). The fact the Sabres last three wins come against the Atlantic Division leading teams (the Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens) should tell you enough: This team might not be running, but they as hell can stand.
This also should tell you Tampa Bay needs to have the intent to compete tonight, not the intent to go through the motions until the 3rd period... Buffalo can stand toe-to-toe with the leagues best, so the best damn well show why they're dubbed as such.
The news yesterday of Vladislav Namestnikov being re-assigned to the Syracuse Crunch seemed a little unexpected (but not entirely shocking). The more surprising note was line-combinations for today's morning skate at the Amalie in preparation for tonight: Jonathan Drouin playing on the 4th line with Brendan Morrow and Brian Boyle. With Vladdy sent down, it was assumed that Drouin was going to see more ice time on the 3rd line with the likes of Valtteri Filppula and either Brett Connolly or Cedric Paquette... That's not the case. It continues the preseason narrative that a spot has to be earned and there is a lot of talent on this roster and in the system pipeline.
On Vladdy's demotion, Lindsay Kramer posted this on Twitter - comments from Julian BriseBois:
BriseBois said Vladdy's play has been good and that he remains an NHL player. But with 4 Cs, just odd man out now. Said Vladdy will be back.— Syracuse Hockey (@syrhockey) December 4, 2014
Technically, that's incorrect... No, I don't mean Namestnikov isn't an NHL player but the fact that Tampa Bay carries 4 centers. It actually carries 8 who have played center at one point in their career: Steven Stamkos, Alex Killorn, Tyler Johnson, Filppula, Cedric Paquette, Brian Boyle and Jonathan Drouin. Drouin was sent back to juniors specifically to play center last year, with Steve Yzerman saying they believed he should be playing center and not wing. Filppula has been spending a lot of time at left wing this season (his own natural position) but was signed with the intent of playing center back in the summer of 2013.
Ben Bishop starts in net for the Lightning tonight, and he's a key part of why the Lightning are in the elite category this season. His save percentage is still well below where he was last year (.917) but his GAA and the record the club has with him between the pipes (2.30, 15-3-2). The one stat that is a major divergence between last season and this one is the shutout column - Ben has not blanked any opponent this season, while he had 5 shutouts last season.
Jhonas Enroth will likely start again for the Sabres. Enroth faced 27 shots total on Tuesday, turning away 26 of them. While his GAA remains near 3 right now (2.95) his save percentage compares directly with Bishop at .916.
Other Game Coverage:
- Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview
- Full coverage on SB Nation
- Live stream of Tampa Bay Lightning coverage on Twitter