Where: Cambria County War Memorial, Johnstown, Pennsylvania
When: 7PM EDT | Tickets: Check Availability
Radio: 970 AM WFLA | Television: NBC Sports Network | Twitter: Live stream
Opponent Coverage: Pensburgh, The Pensblog
The Tampa Bay Lightning returns to the national stage tonight with their match tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first annual Kraft Hockeyville exhibition game. Hockeyville isn't supposed to be a title married to Johnstown, Pennsylvania from now on (and you'd think Detroit would take issues if another town tries to marry itself to that moniker). Kraft Hockeyville is suppose to be a new annual title bestowed upon small town support for the game of ice hockey.
While the Bolts and the Pens will be squaring off, this game (and the telecast that goes along with it) will be a homage to the team, city and arena made famous by the movie "Slap Shot".
I'd downplay this game as I have the preseason in general but it's more of a tune-up now than practice. With the roster reduction over the weekend, the club now carries only 29 men, competition heats up for roster spots. It's not a given that veterans from last season will make the club; there's an honest chance a bubble player such as Slater Koekkoek, Brayden Point, or Mike Angelidis actually make the opening night roster (and someone gets traded to make room for them). So what was once just overe-glorified practice now becomes a bona fide roster competition: Play your game, play it well, and just maybe you'll be winning a locker at 401 Channelside Drive come October 8.
There are a few things to know going into this game - like the fact the Penguins played in another event-like game last night in Quebec City, losing to the Montreal Canadiens 4-1. In that game, most of the feature-name members of the lineup weren't part of the action (sans goalie Marc Andre Fleury). You'll get Sidney Crosby tonight, and Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel. With the Lightning roster reduced so greatly, there are very few cases where you won't see primary players. As I stated above, roster space competition is still ongoing so you will see some swaps, but expect mostly primary players for this one.
Then you have to remember this may be an event game, big names might be playing, but it is exhibition. It is a preseason game but there may be more fun put into this than high level competition.
Speaking of roster battles, the most important non-primary roster situation is in goal where Kristers Gudlevskis and waiver claim Kevin Poulin will share playing time in the crease. While many want to see Ben Bishop's big bad self owning the board per usual, the player assessment has got to be done in goal to make the best choice for the Bishop backup job.
Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview
- Full Coverage on SB Nation
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