Jeez, Johnny is all over the place for this one, isn't he? He's a second line center who has battled injuries this season but is still an integral asset to a roster, he's an elite left wing who went through Boston College before going pro and is on a point-per-game tear this season, he's an undersized forward who has finally found significant playing time in his career at the NHL level after spending most of his career at the AHL level, he's the 2013 #3 overall draft selection who has expressed (through his agent) a desire to be traded and kicked up a firestorm by way of it, and he's the dude who's got the byline on this article.
Now which one will make the biggest difference in tonight's hockey game at the Saddledome in Calgary? I can tell you right now, it won't be me. And while Jonathan Drouin's drama is playing out in the media and will be around in press interviews the players will be subjected to, his influence won't be direct... That won't say there will be no influence, just not direct. How the Lightning reacts during this road trip as a whole may shed light on an emotional response to what's going on. If Tampa Bay continues its hit-and-miss, not-quite play of the season so far, holding no sway is the way to look at things.
Knowing the Flames, Oilers, Canucks and Avalanche - the four teams of the road trip - are all having weak seasons (Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver are all ranked below 21st in overall NHL standings; Colorado is just behind the Lighting at 19th in the league), for Tampa Bay to struggle during this road trip would give the perspective that things have been affected in a negative sense by this hoopla derived from Drouin.
Instead of leading in to tonight with more scuttlebutt on Tampa Bay and Calgary - Stick taps and applause to linesman Mike Cvik who will be calling it a career tonight at the game.
Now, Calgary hasn't thrived this season as I noted and one aspect that reflects it best is the special teams, who are a reeking mess on display. The mess starts with the penalty kill, last in the NHL with its 74.5% kill efficiency - a quarter of opponent power play opportunities net results. Things are no better ranking-wise on the power play - a 12.3% conversion rate is something resoundingly horrible to see. The Lightning has been bad on both fronts, Calgary's been worse though. The power play for TB has inflated to a 19.1 conversion rate, that's 16th in the league. The penalty kill still needs work, though - a 79.5 kill rate is 19th overall in the NHL and has proven to be a liability more than once this season. While the performance improvement in both categories is nice to see, being consistent on both fronts is vital going forward if the club is going to truly vie for the playoffs.
While I note the big downside to the Flames, their big upside is Johnny Hockey, aka Johnny Gaudreau. Gaudreau has 39 points in 38 games played (17 goals, 22 assists), 13 points more than the second top scorer on the Flames (Sean Monahan) and is also a plus-5 (he's second on the team there, behind T.J. Brodie's plus-6 ranking). Lightning fans should be able to take some appreciation from Gaudreau's potency - he being an undersized forward who is tearing it up. We've been there and seen that. You can also appreciate the fact we only have to play against him twice in the regular season, with one game already in the books (a 3-1 Lightning victory on November 12, 2015 - the Lightning held him pointless for that one).
It's not confirmed but Ben Bishop likely starts between the pipes for the Lightning. He wasn't in net on Saturday against the Wild and was note to have left the ice early during New Years Day practice. Leaving practice early was marked as just being careful and head coach Jon Cooper said over the weekend that Bishop was the likely starter in Calgary tonight.
Karri Ramo will be the goalie for the Flames. The former Lightning netminder has a 2.66 GAA and a .910 save percentage in 27 appearances with the Flames this season with a 14-12-1 record.