Battle of the bads; Tampa Bay Lightning versus Florida Panthers preview

The Lightning have not won three games in a row since the first month of the season. They'll try for the feat tonight against the cellar-dwelling Florida Panthers.

WHERE: Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
WHEN: 7:30 PM EDT | | TICKETS: Check Availability
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable), 970 WFLA (radio)

On the eve of the 2013 NHL trade deadline, the Lightning and Florida Panthers square off in a battle of the bads. Despite the Bolts having gained four points in their past two games, they currently are 14th in the 15 team Eastern Conference. Three points ahead of last-place Florida.

Jon Cooper wants to screw up Steve Yzerman's draft position; the three day break between games certainly will help refreshing the team but... Well, while the Lightning are idle, other teams advance in the standings.

Eastern Standings

Pittsburgh Penguins 36 28-8-0 56
Montreal Canadiens 35 23-7-5 51
Winnipeg Jets 37 18-17-2 38
Boston Bruins 34 22-8-4 48
Ottawa Senators 35 19-10-6 44
Toronto Maple Leafs 36 20-12-4 44
New Jersey Devils 36 15-12-9 39
New York Rangers 35 17-15-3 37
New York Islanders 36 17-16-3 37
Carolina Hurricanes 34 16-16-2 34
Washington Capitals 35 16-17-2 34
Philadelphia Flyers 35 15-17-3 33
Buffalo Sabres 36 13-17-6 32
Tampa Bay Lightning 34 15-18-1 31
Florida Panthers 36 11-19-6 28

Mathieu Garon gets the start in net for the Lightning tonight. No word if the Bolts will employ the 11/7 split again tonight, that would get Andrej Sustr in his second straight game.

The Panthers are... well, they're hurt. Hurting. Maimed. You saw Radko Gudas end Kris Versteeg's season (or, more aptly, Kris Versteeg ending his season with a bad reaction while Gudas jumped in front of him for the puck). Versteeg is one of six Panthers on IR. That list includes assistant captain Stephan Weiss, team captain Ed Jovanoski and goalie Jose Theodore.

Still, the Panthers have a bright spot in Jonathan Huberdeau who is leading the team in scoring (13 goals, 12 assists) and other young players like forward Drew Shore (2 goals 9 assists) and defensemen Erik Gudbranson and Dmitry Kulikov. There is hope for the future even if the current moment looks murky at best.

Will the Panthers be out for revenge after losing Versteeg during their last meeting with the Bolts; a game they should have won? Odds are they'll simply be out to play respectably.

Two final notes:

Vincent Lecavalier participated in the morning skate with the Lightning. He's not going to be in the lineup tonight but the possibility of his return on Thursday in Raleigh is there.

Raw Charge and Litter Box Cats will be participating in a "Road trip" during tonight's game. The first and third periods will partake here on Raw Charge, while we'll move over to Litter Box Cats for the second period conversation.

Other Previews

Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview

Full game coverage on SB Nation

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