A backup begins; Tampa Bay Lightning versus New Jersey Devils preview

Tampa Bay closes it's homestand tonight and will see how Evgeni Nabokov can perform in the crease.

Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida
When: 7:30 PM EDT | Tickets: Check availability
Media: Sun Sports (cable), RDS | 970 AM WFLA (radio) | Twitter Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: In Lou We Trust

Evgeni Nabokov makes his regular season Tampa Bay Lightning debut tonight as the Bolts square off against the New Jersey Devils on the flip-side of back-to-back games. Tonight closest out the season-opening homestand for the Lightning, who will hit the road for a western Canada foray after the game.

The reason I lead with the news on Nabokov is that this - the backup goalie starting one of back-to-back games - stopped occurring last season, even with Ben Bishop hurting. Lack of faith in former Bolts netminder Anders Lindback and just plain hubris had contributed to this last season. Important games - even against weak opponents - were put at risk or outright dropped because the Lightning overused Bishop, whose wrist had ligament damage and who clearly played with pain.

While there will be a change in the crease tonight, Rick Bowness told reporters this morning that there will likely be no lineup changes besides that. Anything could happen, of course, but with the Lightning's success last night... well, why mess with what seemed to work well?

That means no Jonathan Drouin NHL debut yet. Drouin is not cleared. Does this increase the likelihood he may get a conditioning stint in Syracuse? Perhaps. While he is practicing and working with coaches to a degree, he hasn't played in a game situation since the rookie tournament in September (not counting team scrimmages during training camp - which he was not always part of).

Cory Schneider will be starting in goal for the Devils tonight. His two starts of the season so far have produced a 2.50 GASA and .926 save percentage. This will only be the third game of the season for the Devils, but in live post-Brodeur, they certainly must be happy with what they're getting in the crease so far.

They've also gotten a pretty potent load from the rest of the roster too. Two games played, and of all skaters (not counting Schneider) only four do not have points right now for the Devils (Bryce Salvador, Jordin Tootoo, Travis Zajac, and Stephen Gionta). This is compared to the Lightning's seven players who have yet to register points (Eric Brewer, J.T. Brown, Jason Garrison, Radko Gudas, Alex Killorn, Brendan Morrow and Andrej Sustr).

It's early, it's not a big deal; it's just interesting.