On the cusp and on the brink; Tampa Bay Lightning at Ottawa Senators preview

WHERE: Scotiabank Place, Ottawa, Ontario
WHEN: 7:30 PM EST | | TICKETS: Check Availability
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable), 970 WFLA (radio)

The Eastern Conference is a log-jam this season, much like it has been at various points the past few seasons. That puts several teams on the cusp of the playoffs and several teams on the brink of being left out in the cold.

As the standings currently show, the Ottawa Senators are on the cusp... And the Lightning? The Bolts are well past the brink at this moment. They're out in the cold:

Eastern Standings

Pittsburgh Penguins 27 16-7-4 36
Boston Bruins 24 16-7-1 33
Florida Panthers 26 14-8-4 32
New York Rangers 23 15-5-3 33
Philadelphia Flyers 25 15-7-3 33
Toronto Maple Leafs 26 14-10-2 30
Buffalo Sabres 26 14-11-1 29
Washington Capitals 25 13-11-1 27
Ottawa Senators 26 12-11-3 27
Montreal Canadiens 27 11-11-5 27
Winnipeg Jets 26 11-11-4 26
New Jersey Devils 25 12-12-1 25
Tampa Bay Lightning 25 11-12-2 24
New York Islanders 24 8-11-5 21
Carolina Hurricanes 28 8-16-4 20

A quarter of the season has been played, the excuse that it's early no longer holds water. Things are not great, as any fan can tell you. While Steven Stamkos is tied for the league lead in goals scored, adn while Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier are both producing and contributing... Well, it's not enough. It's not a top-down solution to what ails this team, either (more offense and contributions from Lecavalier, Stamkos, and St. Louis will not cure these ills). It's more from everyone else that matters.

Secondary scoring has just fallen off the map for the Bolts. While there are contributions of note from the lower lines, the threat from the bottom two forward lines just don't seem to be there. Tom Pyatt has shown flashes of ability beyond doing the dirty work, and we all know Steve Downie and Ryan Shannon have ability beyond what they have shown thus far this season...

With the schedule taking an ugly turn the next few weeks, and the team marred in adversity, either this team starts to swim or should start planning for its meeting with the bottom of the standings. .

Where did this Ottawa Senators team come from? Our 1992 expansion brethren were marred in their own inconsistencies and problems last season. This season? They're on the cusp of playoff seeding, tied for the 8th and final playoff spot in the conference with the Washington Capitals and Montreal Canadiens.

The Senators haven't improved that vastly (stop laughing, Ottawa fans, I'll get to my point in a moment). While Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson and Milan Michalek are all leading the team (and the league in Karlsson and Michalek's cases - Karlsson with 23 assists, Michalek tied with Stamkos and Phil Kessel for the league lead in goals with 16), the team is a single point ahead of where they were last season. Last season on December 5th, Ottawa had 26 points and a 12-14-2 record.

9th in the conference. Same stuff, different day.

The Bolts will be playing back-to-back games. After they come off the ice in Ottawa, the team has to travel to Long Island for a bout with the Islanders tomorrow. WIth that in mind, expect goaltenders Mathieu Garon and Dwayne Roloson to split duties today and tomorrow.

There's no telling what will happen with regards to the Lightning lineup tonight. Will Adam Hall be back in? Who sits if that is the case?

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