Can't touch this; Rangers at Lightning preview

WHERE: St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable), 620 WDAE (radio)

A late November home game against the New York Rangers, right around Thanksgiving... I'm getting deja vu here, because I remember seeing this before somewhere...

Wait, wait, I have seen this before somewhere. 362 days ago, just shy of a year, the Bolts and Rangers faced off in a post-Thanksgiving hockey feast at Times Palace. It was John Tortorella's first game back in Tampa as a head coach, and Vaclav Prospal's return to Tampa after being bought-out in summer 2009..

Last year's end result was something nice: A 5-1 victory where everything went right.

Things went so smoothly that I thought it was finally the turning point of the season, and that things would only get better from that point forward. Oh, how wrong I was.

But that was last season. While plenty of core faces are the same on the Lightning, the team is completely different now.

It was revealed yesterday that Lightning wunderkind center Steven Stamkos is currently sixth in NHL All-Star voting. Martin St. Louis is 38th in the vote. I have not made a big deal about the All-Star ballot or the game itself... But it would be nice if we could get either player (actually, both) a few more votes that better reflect their star caliber.

And before I get into the rest of tonight's game, I'll just rehash the news that 1990's musical act MC Hammer will be performing at Times Palace tonight. This is the second baggy-pants 90's act to grace Tampa Bay in 2010. During the summer months, Robert Van Winkle, aka Vanilla Ice, performed a post-game concert at Tropicana Field.

Vanilla Ice had no ties to the Rays, however... While MC Hammer has been invoked time and again with Steven Stamkos (Stammer Time! / Stammer the Hammer, etc).


One of the big questions for tonight's game is the availability of LW Simon Gagne, who has not played since October 21st against the Islanders. In recent days, head coach Guy Boucher made remarks suggesting that Simon's return was imminent... But not guaranteed. It's up in the air but it could happen at any time. He's listed as questionable for tonight's game. Our friend Mike Corcoran is also reporting via Twitter that Gagne was not wearing the red vest (for injured players) this morning at practice.

Gagne had yet to register a point in his 7 games played this season, so while we'd all be relieved if he returns -- he still has a mountain to climb to get back on the score sheet.

The Rangers are converting 15.8% of their power play chances, they are 18th in the NHL. With a man disadvantage, the Rags are 12th in the league. They're PK success rate is 83.3%.

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