Bend, don't break; Tampa Bay Lightning versus New York Rangers preview

The Bolts recent woes show the team bending under lineup pressure. It's vastly important for the sake of the overall organization they don't break. Breaking includes throwing assets away for a quick fix.

Where:  Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
When: 7:30 PM EST | Tickets: Check availability
Media: Sun Sports (cable) | 970 AM WFLA (radio)
Opponent Coverage: Blueshirt Banter, Blue Sseat Blogs, The NY Rangers Blog

Over the weekend there was a piece in one of the local dailys (mostly writer-lead) suggesting the Bolts could make a trade for a veteran forward in case internal options don't work out (regarding temporary replacements for Steven Stamkos.) Just to cut to the chase - Steve Yzerman seemed to answer pointed questions with generalized responses coming from a man keeping his options open. Basically that's what a general manager does.

We're seeing more internal options being used with the promotion of Nikita Kucherov to the NHL by the Bolts. Kucherov is not a center, though, he'll be playing on the wing on a line centered by Alex Killorn (Teddy Purcell will be the opposite wing,) I'm not certain how the rest of the lineup is being tweaked to deal with the line juggling. It's also not clear how long this promotion will last; is he here simply because Ryan Malone can't go? Or is it an attempt to jumpstart an offense that was outscored 17-5 in their past four games?

Whatever the case, the failed western trek (0-3-1) needs to be seen as the Lightning bending but not breaking. "Breaking" would be to panic and make roster moves for the moment that disrupt the overall plan for the Lightning that builds with youth and the draft. The bending is the pressure that is faced by the club under current circumstances; taking lumps but staying the course.

How far can the Lightning bend?  That question is something I don't want to ponder.  The Kucherov recall is already bending the overall developmental plan for the organization (patience.) You'll sooner see waiver claims than a trade unless the trade is of little cost and the quantity picked up is someone who can help the club both long-term and short-term.

At any rate, the Bolts are back on Cooper's Pond tonight, looking to regroup against the New York Rangers. The Rangers are part of the looking-to-regroup Metro Division that was surprisingly horrid to start the season. The Rags have broken .500 (12-11-0) and are on a 2 game winning streak and are 6-4-0 in their past 10 games. They've also proven to have a stronger track record on the road so far this season than at home (8-6-0 as to 4-5-0).

John Tortorella isn't the one guiding this boat now, which you probably already know. Torts, fired after the Blueshirts were bounced from the playoffs last season, is in Vancouver and Alain Vigneault (former Vancouver Canucks head coach) is now in charge of the Rangers. And this could have an effect on the lightning tonight not so much because of the talent the Rangers boast, but because the Bolts employ Rick Bowness who used to be Vigneault's assistant in Vancouver.

For the Lightning, it's not just Malone who is out tonight, its defenseman Radko Gudas too. Being held out from much of the latter game Friday night was said to be a precaution. For him to miss tonight is curious. Dmitry Korobov had been recalled with Kucherov yesterday, so I'm guessing we'll see him in the bottom pairing tonight.

Oh, yeah, and that Bishop guy is starting in net for the Lightning. I heard he's been kind of good this season. Not exceedingly so lately, as Ben Bishop went 0-2-1 in his last three games, getting pulled in the game against Phoenix on November 16th.

Talking injuries, it's important to note that a Pyatt returns to the lineup tonight - just not Tom Pyatt for the Lightning. Taylor Pyatt, Tom's brother, returns to the Rangers after being out of the Rangers lineup since earlier this month after suffering a concussion. He had only 1 point in 16 games with the Rangers previously and was a minus-8.

The all-world Swede, Henrik Lundqvist, will be starting in net for New York. Hank has a .921 save percentage and a 2.36 GAA in 17 games this season.

Remember that Martin St. Louis will be honored before the game - he broke 1000 games-played during the recent road trip and he'll receive a silver stick commemorating that feat as well as other kudos and accolades before tonight's game.

Other Game Coverage: