A banged-up going-away party: Bolts vs. Penguins preview
WHERE: St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
WHEN: 7:30 PM EDT
MEDIA: Sun Sports (Cable), 620 WDAE (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Pensburgh
We already know that the status of forwards Simon Gagne and Dominic Moore is so questionable that the Bolts made a recall yesterday to compensate. Add to it questionable statues of Brett Clark and Matt Smaby (who, after a quiet start, has steadily increased ice time in his games played) and you're looking for good news anywhere on the health front.
I think we have some for you. Mattias Ohlund will make his season debut tonight. Mattias had been kept out of action since late in teh preseason due to knee problems.
So rejoice, and revel in tonight's match-up between the Bolts and the Penguins at Times Palace... Because you're not going to get many opportunities to see this team in action for the next month-plus.
Between now and the end of November, the Lightning will play a total of 11 games out of 15 on the road. Through the end of 2010, they will play 18 out of 28 games on the road as well. The traveling action starts immediately as the Bolts make their first of two western trips this season. They'll be playing Phoenix and the California teams starting this weekend. The second trip comes up in early December when the Lightning head to western Canada.
This stretch of road games and a quicker pace to the season, will test this teams resilience and endurance.
Oh yeah, and then there's the little issue of playing Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight.
The Bolts and the Pens sit atop the crowded Eastern Conference standings, having 11 points each. They are in a statistical tie with Toronto and Montreal as it stands, while the Washington Capitals are a single point out.
The Penguins are a formidable 3-0-1 on the road this season, and Brent Johnson has been dominant in net for the Pens (4-0-1 with a .951 save percentage and a 1.39 GAA). While the Lightning are going to see Ohlund return, the Pens will see Arron Asham make his season debut tonight.
Mike Smith will be starting between the pipes for the Lightning, he'll be putting his perfect* record on the line.
The Penguins have the 14th ranked power play unit in the league, they have converted 8 of 49 opportunities in 9 games played. Their penalty kill is ranked 19th in the league (6 goals allowed on 34 opportunities). The Bolts are ranked 5th in the league in both the power play and penalty kill. They've converted 10 of 38 power play opportunities, and limited the number of opposing power-play goals to 4 on 36 opponent opportunities.
Eyes may be on Steven Stamkos vs. Sidney Crosby, but remember there is no love on the Lightning roster for Matt Cooke, and it shows.
Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview