Lightning renew heated preseason rivalry with Panthers tonight in Sunrise

The Tampa Bay Lightning face the Florida Panthers in a preseason game tonight.

The Tampa Bay Lightning continue their fortnight-long quest to claim the Preseason Southeast Regional NHL Champions Cup (PSRNHLCC) tonight with what is likely to be an electrifyingly catty matchup in Sunrise at 7:30 PM ET against the Florida Panthers. If you’re looking to attend the game, I recommend buying tickets ASAP. At last check, they were selling fast with lower bowl tickets skyrocketing into the double-digit price range on the secondary market.

The Lightning obviously want to win this game, shown by their activation of Swedish secret weapon Anton Stralman after keeping him off the ice for the previous preseason games. Some would say this is due to an undisclosed injury. And they would probably be right. But could it be that the team was intentionally not playing him so that they could unleash him as a surprise attack on the Panthers as we near the end of the PSRNHLCC?

In practice this morning, Stralman skated with rookie Mikhail Sergachev on the second pairing. For Sergachev, that must feel like quite an upgrade after partnering with fellow youngster Erik Cernak for much of his ice time up to this point. The rest of the defensive pairs looked as follows:

Victor Hedman - Jake Dotchin
Sergachev - Stralman
Braydon Coburn - Andrej Sustr
Slater Koekkoek - Dan Girardi

Given that Jake Dotchin is still unlikely to play today due to his continued suspension for violating an undisclosed team rule and potentially struggling with some existential issues, it seems possible that Victor Hedman might also get the night off tonight with the other three pairs tasked with defending the Panthers in this important game.

The forward lines look much like the ones we’ve seen at various points in the highly competitive PSRNHLCC thus far:

Brayden Point - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Alex Volkov
Chris Kunitz - Vlad Namestnikov - Ryan Callahan
Cory Conacher - Yanni Gourde - Michael Bournival

Point staying on the top line with Stamkos and Kucherov is an interesting little tidbit. Perhaps this is more than just a way of confusing the opposition to try to win the PSRNHLCC, and the team is considering carrying that line into the slightly less meaningful regular season. Volkov’s position on the second line as the newest member of the triplets is a testament to how well he has played in camp. In terms of rotating third cast members, he’s looked more Curly than Shemp.

With just three games left for the Lightning in the PSRNHLCC, tonight is unquestionably a must win. Here’s hoping that unleashing Stralman is enough to get it done and get the team one step closer to raising that famous PSRNHLCC cup we all know and love. Go Bolts!

[Mr. Loserpoints. You ok? Are you frustrated with the limitations of the somewhat repetitive media offering that is a game preview, especially during the preseason? Just checking. - Acha]