Marketing iinterruption; Tampa Bay Lightning versus Vancouver Canucks preview

The looming break in action gives (most of) the Bolts six days to rest, reflect and recover.

Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida
When: 7:30 PM EST | Tickets: Check availability
Media: Sun Sports (cable) | 970 AM WFLA (radio) | Twitter Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: Nucks Misconduct, Canucks Army

Is this a commercial break that's looming for the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Vancouver Canucks, the opponents tonight at Amalie Arena? The NHL All-Star game, while it gets criticized by die hard and traditionalists with constant thoughts of how to "improve" it (when to play it, the rules to use, how to play it, how players should get selected, etc.), it's sort of important to remember that the entire weekend is a spectacle and celebration of the sport and those who play it. It's a lure for the more casual fans and a moment for the younger fans to see their heroes and the best of the game all in one place.

Sort of like the Olympics, where the International Ice Hockey Federation doesn't look to find different ways to play the tournament every four years. Instead, the world is left to marvel at the competition itself.

The All-Star game, be it in MLB, the NBA, NFL or NHL, isn't about the competition on ice but the players and the glory of the sport and league. While diehard fans are going to sooner cite the playoffs for the compete level and the glory of Lord Stanley's Cup, the playoffs doesn't involve the best-of-the-best individuals as so much teams. The focus is on the game, the competition (and rightly so). The All-Star game is about having fun and connecting with fans on a personal level.

When done right, that connection can be made. When over-complicated to try to add intrigue to the game itself, it misses the point that the weekend, the slate of events on and off the ice, is what sells the game and the personalities within. Not finding a format to satisfy media and the die-hards who are going to voice opinions against the game or what-if proposals on formatting no matter what happens. That seems like the only tradition adhered to by the NHL regarding this game; try to "make it better" instead of making it a tradition that shows off personalities.

So, the Lightning sends two players and three representatives in general to Columbus, Ohio in Jonathan Drouin, Tyler Johnson and Steven Stamkos. The Canucks, on the other hand, are sending Radim Vrbata as their representative to the game. Vrbata scored one of two Canuck goals last night at BB&T Arena in Sunrise in Vancouver's victory against the Florida Panthers. Vrbata has 31 points on the season (18 goals, 13 assists) He's #3 on the Canucks in scoring behind assist-machines Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin.

The thing is that there's a steep drop-off from the Sedin twins and Vrbata with Canucks scoring. Next on the team is Nick Bonino with 24 points, and then comes Alex Burrows with 19....

The Lightning has nine players with 20 points or more.

Offensive potency isn't quite as necessary when you're playing Ryan Miller between the pipes in net. Miller has a 2.23 goals against average and a .919 save percentage as well as 5 shutouts this season. Miller went last night, faced 24 shots and made 23 saves... Does he go again tonight, or does Eddie Lack get the nod? Lack's started 11 games for the Canucks, posting a .912 save percentage and a 2.61 GAA on his way to a 3-6-2 record.

For the Lightning, one lineup note worth mentioning is Luke Witkowski will be making his NHL debut according to Erik Erlendsson this morning. Witkowski, called up over the weekend, will likely be paired with recent Syracuse Crunch teammate Nikita Nesterov on the Bolts blue line.

Ben Bishop was confirmed to start days ago. His save percentage compares to Lack's (.912) while his goals-against average reflects how well the defense in front of him has been playing most nights - 2.38. That's a sight higher than that of Ryan Miller, but it's been potent enough for the Lightning to get where they've gotten with him in net (his record is 23-7-2).

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