Lightning take road show to Nashville; Bolts vs. Predators game preview

WHERE: Sommet Center, Nashville, Tennessee
MEDIA: 620 WDAE (radio)

The memo that this is all the players fault continues to play out before our eyes with some of the moves that have taken place before tonight's game in Nashville. There was the vote-of-confidence in the players yesterday by Lightning general manager Brian Lawton... There was the call up of Blair Jones today as we noted in a fan shot...

Now, once again, there has been a major shake up... This time it doesn't involve Vincent Lecavalier though. Jeff Halper and Alex Tanguay have both been scratched for tonight's matchup, and the 4th line will be made up of two defensemen. Yes, the Bolts are dressing eight D-men tonight.

But the news playing out from Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune via Twitter:

According to Rick Tocchet, Halpern's scratch is not based on his play, rather something between player and coach, he didn't elaborate

It's Halpern's first healthy scratch in quite a while and Jeff also did not elaborate or comment further on the scratch.

I really think Dirk Hoag at on the Forecheck summarizes this game perfectly in why Nashville comes out victorious tonight (and why the Lightning are floundering, and why people are looking at coaching as a problem):The Lightning have a decent amount of talent, but right now are a team in disarray, and this is when the structure that Barry Trotz is most famous for should pay dividends. With a disciplined, hard-fought effort, the Preds need to jump on this team early and get them down.

Talent but disarray, bested from a disciplined, hard fought effort.  For all the hoopla about dogging the puck, grinding it out, and showing toughness - the Bolts and discipline have not known each other this season.  This is a far more broader issue than change-the-chemistry, keep-the-style that some believe will be the salvation for the Lightning.  It's a sign of bad wiring.

The Nashville Predators are at the bottom of the league when it comes to special teams -- a 16.5% success rate on power plays and a 26th ranked Penalty Kill unit (78.2 %). Of course, the Lightning aren't too much better in either area. Nashville is also peppering opposing goaltenders with 31 shots a night on average. That means the Lightning defense cannot fall down, go boom again and leave netminder Antero Niittymaki out to dry as they have all too often this season.

Of course, don't let the special team standings fool you:  Nashville is 6th in the Western Conference (and the West in whole is showing absolute dominance over the East this season ) and 5-3-2  in their last ten.   If Chicago saw Sunday's matchup as a game that could re-invigorate the offense, Nashville should see this as a game that should be improving their special teams.

Tampa Bay Lightning Projected Lines

(updated December 15, 2009 by RawCharge subject to change)

Forward Lines:

Ryan Malone -Steven Stamkos - Martin St. Louis
Paul Szczechura - Vincent Lecavalier - Steve Downie
Blair Jones - James Wright - Stephane Veilleux
David Hale - Zenon Konopka - Kurtis Foster


Mattias Ohlund | Andrej Meszaros
Victor Hedman | Lukas Krajicek
Matt Walker | Matt Smbay


Antero Niittymaki (starter)
Mike Smith

Lines for Nashville:

Sullivan - Arnott - Erat
Ward - Legwand - Smithson
Jones - Goc - Dumont
Hornqvist - Scatchard - Spaling
Suter - Weber
Bouillon - Klein
Hamhuis - Sulzer
Pekka Rinne

Other Previews

Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview

On the Forecheck