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White flags and standing storms; Tampa Bay Lightning versus Carolina Hurricanes preview

While Carolina conceded key talent at the deadline, the Lightning stood tight.

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida | When: 7 PM EST
Radio: 970 AM WFLA | Television: Fox Sports Sun | Twitter: Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: Canes Country, Canes & Coffee

The Carolina Hurricanes were players as the NHL trade deadline came and went. A week ago they sold off Kris Versteeg and Eric Staal in separate deals which amounted to waving the white flag on the season. The Hurricanes had been a gutter-team to start the season but aren't of that lowly caliber now.  They're 6 points out from the final wild card spot though, and making a choice to reformat the team for long-term building is a choice that eventually gets made for most every club.

The trade deadline does beef up contenders, or the guise of which is put out there by bloggers such as myself and media types around the league, but nothing is certain in the moves made (by either the buyers or sellers); acquired talent might not click and draft picks are a gamble where results of the bet don't necessarily show up for 2 or 3 years. Those factors ought to be considered with the Lightning not making any deals at the deadline. Beefing up the roster for the playoffs sounds like the optimum path to take, but at what cost? While Jonathan Drouin was perceived as the commodity to sell off at the deadline for a payout, what was sought in a Drouin deal by management was long-term minded. It's a habit of Steve Yzerman to keep an eye out on long-term contention which strikes the "Cup or Bust" mindset in the face. If the Lightning were going all out for a title, costs are damned and acquisitions (along with deckchair shuffling) take precedent.

Unless there's a waiver pickup, Tampacuse is the way the Lightning further stock its roster and contends this spring in the final month of NHL play and in the playoffs.

Without taking a thing on, the Lightning have propped themselves up to a tie for first place in the Atlantic Division. The NHL playoffs seem all but certain unless there is a grand collapse that competes with the Montreal Canadiens futility... 18 games remain and odds are 6 or 7 victories in those remaining games guarantee a playoff spot.

At any rate, it's a weird little niche for the Lightning tonight at home... because they'll be in flight to Philadelphia sometime tomorrow for a Monday game against the Flyers followed by an Amalie-Arena-based game the next night against the Boston Bruins. That's a challenging arrangement that could make the Division standings even tighter.

Defenseman Andrej Sustr will not play for the Bolts tonight. That link is proof, but reasoning is not disclosed. How this shuffles defense remains to be seen. With Jason Garrison getting back to playing time after his injury, it may be quite all right that a regular from the blue line misses a game.

Eddie Lack is likely between the pipes for the Hurricanes tonight. He's got a 2.61 GAA, .904 save percentage and a .500 (if you don't count overtime losses) record at 11-11-3. While Lack has had backup status to Cam Ward, his numbers are highly close to what Ward is producing for Carolina with minor differential (2.49 GAA - 11 tenths of a point; .908 save percentage, an 18-15-7 record).

No one is confirmed for starter status with Tampa Bay yet; Ben Bishop (2.04 GAA, .926 save percentage) will likely get the nod though.

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