Lightning seek to melt Avalanche in Tampa (game preview)

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

It's been just about a year since the Lightning and Avalanche last faced off at Times Palace, and for those who can't recall what happened -- a rather great game was ruined by referee's travesty:

In a year's time, I'm still pissed off over this incident... But my anger is not directed at the Colorado Avalanche in any way, shape or form (nor has it ever)... No, it's directed at the refs on ice and Stephen Walkom's asinine remark heralding the judgments on ice as the right call.

But enough of that. It's over and done with, it happened. It shouldn't play into anything that happens tonight in Tampa as the Avs and Lightning face off for the first of two meetings this season. The Bolts are coming off their sloppy overtime loss to the Dallas Stars on Saturday night and the Avs are reeling, going 2-5-3 in their past 10 games after a hot-hot start to surprise just about everyone in the NHL. The Avalanche are starting a 5 game road trip (perfect time for a vacation to sunny Florida!) and have lost wing David Jones to a torn ACL.

If Mike Smith starts in net, it will only confirm Cassie McClellan's suspicions that Tocchet has a preference for Mike over Antero Niittymaki. Smith has played a more-down-than-up season so far in net. Flashes of brilliance have been less consistent than an over-aggressive, bone-headed play or two. I've remarked during game threads that Smith reminds me, at times, of former Lightning goaltender John Grahame. Of course, Smith has yet to make a mistake comparable to this:

from October 21st, 2005 vs. the Ottawa Senators

...But his play has not earned him the right to play three games in a row.

It looks like Mattias Ohlund is going to be back int eh lineup tonight for the Lightning, Mike Lundin's been sent down.... again. Lundin, -2 in four games with the Bolts this season, has had a steady amount of ice time in his four starts, with over 20 minutes in Friday's win against the Rangers and over 17 the loss to Dallas. He was +1 in those two games. Matt Smaby will be returning to Tampa, though, and hopefully will be seeing his first playing time of the season this week.

The Avalanche have 33 points this season, which is just less than half of what they had all of last season.  They currently have the league's 20th ranked power play unity (19.4%) and 16th ranked penalty kill (79.6%).  Much like the Bolts, the Avs have been depending on their netminder to put them over the top...  and with the team allowing over 32 shots a game, strong goaltending becomes a necessity.

Rookie Matt Duchene, the 1st rounder who was selected just after Victor Hedman in this year's draft, has 12 points in 27 games and is a -10 for the Avalanche... Paul Stastny is the team's points leader with 25 (6 goals, 19 assists). Milan Hejduk leads the team in goal-scoring this seasonw ith 11.

Tampa Bay Lightning Projected Lines

(updated November 30, 2009 by RawCharge subject to change)

Forward Lines:

Alex Tanguay - Vincent Lecavalier - Jeff Halpern
Ryan Malone - Steven Stamkos - Martin St. Louis
James Wright - Paul Szczechura - Steve Downie
Kurtis Foster - Zenon Konopka - Stephane Veilleux


Victor Hedman | Andrej Meszaros
David Hale | Matt Walker
Lukas Krajicek| Mattias Ohlund


Antero Niittymaki (starter)
Mike Smith

Other Previews:

Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview

Mile High Hockey