NHL hockey is finally back from it’s mid-season break. The All-Star weekend has been attended, the bye week has been spent, so now it’s time to get back to business and prepare for the two-month sprint to the playoffs before the (hopefully) two-month grind that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Tampa Bay Lightning just need to cruise for the rest of the season, but they probably won’t. They’ve learned their lesson from previous seasons; it’s hard to turn it on in the middle of spring so form going into the playoffs is crucial.
Among the many things the Lightning will need to do heading into the final 33 games of the season (kicking off against Pittsburgh tonight), is scout their opponents. One of the biggest rivals the Bolts have in the league is their Atlantic Division foe the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs just made the first big trade splash among the teams gearing up for the playoffs, so I looked at what makes up this current Leafs team and what kind of competition they will bring to the table this season. [Raw Charge]
Going into last night, the Leafs had a top pairing of Morgan Rielly and Ron Hainsey. Rielly has had a great season — he’s been getting a lot of points and Norris Trophy voting — but as the year’s gone on, his 37-year-old partner Hainsey has fallen and can’t get up. That pairing wasn’t going to last, and going from Hainsey to Muzzin is a massive upgrade.
Kendall Coyne Schofield, who put the hockey world on notice (yet again, but we seem to keep forgetting so she needs to remind us every time) as to how quick and talented of a player she is, will be on NBC’s Wednesday night broadcast covering the Penguins and Lightning game as an analyst! I’m both very excited and terrified that one of the other men on the panel or broadcast is going to say something or do something dumb or inappropriate. Fingers crossed? [NBC Sports]
Coyne, who currently plays for the Minnesota Whitecaps of the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL), became the first woman to compete in an NHL All-Star Skills Competition event this past weekend when she participated in the fastest skater event.
Coyne will be featured on NBC Sports’ commentary team throughout the night, joining NHL Live pre-game coverage, providing reaction and analysis during intermissions, and serving as an ‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst, and booth analyst.
Tampa’s first game back is against the Pittsburgh Penguins. They skated in Brandon, Florida yesterday before getting on a plane and travelling north to play the champions from two seasons ago. Pittsburgh has already played games since coming off their break so this game will be a massive test for the probably-rusty Bolts. [Tampa Bay Times]
“We’re not looking past Pittsburgh,” defenseman Dan Girardi said Tuesday. “This is a good three coming up after a long break.”
Also from practice, an update on several lineup question marks, including Tyler Johnson and the defense corps. [Tampa Bay Times]
Having seven defensemen and only six slots to fill is definitely one of the better problems the Lightning could ask for heading into this part of the season. The coaches had said they would use the break to assess the rotation and determine if they would make changes, but they’ve yet to draw any conclusions on how to change a rotation they used going into the bye.
Bryan Burns has a projected lineup as well as news and notes (aka nuts and bolts) heading into Pittsburgh. [NHL dot com]
This will be the second of three meetings between the two clubs and the last played at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. Brayden Point recoreded a natural hat trick in 91 seconds as the Bolts defeated the Penguins 4-3 in Pittsburgh back in November.
Were I a betting man - and I’m not by nature - based on today’s practice the #TBLightning D pairings tomorrow might look as follows:— Lightning Insider (@Erik_Erlendsson) January 29, 2019
Coburn has been taking rushes/drills with Martel, so read into that as you like
The Prospects (But mostly just Connor Ingram)
First off, a Connorism to kick off your Wednesday!
Next, Connor prepares us for what will be a whole lot of cattitude with Cory Conacher and Lukas Favale in the next link.
That face you make when you know your about to say meow subtly as many times as you can in 30 seconds pic.twitter.com/le1SMEUJYH— Connor Ingram (@CBIngram1) January 29, 2019
As soon as he saw this, Andrei Vasilevskiy ran to an airport and got on a plane so he could join in on the game.
Like the AHL All-Star jerseys you saw on Ingram and Conacher? You can bid on them in the AHL All-Star Auction.
Lastly from the system, the Orlando Solar Bears made a trade.
The NWHL made some news yesterday, as it was reported that the Minnesota Whitecaps have turned a profit this season. Good things are happening in women’s hockey and the world should take note!
"League commissioner Dani Rylan said the Whitecaps are the first NWHL team to turn a profit, boosted by a league-record 500 season tickets sold and significant merchandise sales." https://t.co/o2yeBeT7Va— Michelle Jay (@michelle_jay3) January 29, 2019
In the NHL, Carter Hart became the youngest Philadelphia Flyers goaltender to win four games in a row, and the first to do it before the age of 21.
Changing gears significantly, it was reported that Nashville Predators winger (who was suspended just this season on a domestic violence charge) has been “placed in Stage 2 of the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program because of alcohol abuse.”
Austin Watson has been placed in Stage 2 of the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program because of alcohol abuse. He will be suspended without pay until cleared.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) January 29, 2019
Finally, today is #BellLetsTalk day. It is an initiative facilitated by Bell Media Canada to help spread awareness and support for mental health around the world. No matter what you’re dealing with, you are not alone and there is always someone to talk to. Most days it’s hard to speak up, but hopefully today is one day in the year where it’s a little easier. Nothing’s too big, nothing’s too small.
If you need an ear, send me a tweet and I’ll open my Twitter DMs. I’m always willing to listen any day of the year.
Also, if you are on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat, any and all uses of the hashtag #BellLetsTalk will be counted and Bell will donate money to mental health research and support. Details will be all over the internet, I’m sure.
Highlight of the Night: Boston losing (: