Opening night and season blight: Lightning host Hurricanes (preview)

WHERE: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida
MEDIA: Fox Sports Florida (cable), 970 WFLA (radio)
PROBABLE STARTING PITCHERS: Tampa Bay -- RHP James Shields; Balitimore - RHP Kevin Millwood

The official end of the long, cold winter is upon us now as the Boys of Summer make their glorious return to life at One Tropicana Drive as the Rays hostthe Baltimore Orioles to start the 2010 Major League Baseball seas--....

Oh wait, wrong sport.    . If you'd like to read the proper source for tonight's opening day game for the Rays, head over to DraysBay.

Let's try this again...

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

With the Lightning eliminated from playoff contention and the Fall for Hall having been painstaking crafted since the Bolts return from the Olympic break, there is one last rallying point for Lightning fans who will continue enduring this team for the final week of the season: Seen Cinquenta?

Steven Stamkos remains at 46 goals for the season, a monumental feat for an NHL sophomore. Can he add to that total before the season comes to a close this weekend? Can he reach 50 goals for the season? Cinquenta, by the way, is the Spanish word for 50.

Speaking of Steven Stamkos, you may have already heard that he and Steve Downie were approached last week to play for team Canada in the World championships next month in Germany. For those not in the know, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) holds a tournament annually each May between countries. This is not the Olympics, this is not the World Junior Championships. This is, however, another chance for players to represent their country in international play.

In another piece of news that is not tied to tonight's game with the Carolina Hurricanes, it's being reported abroad that the Lightning have signed Swedish left wing Johan Harju to a one year, one way contract. Harju, a 6th round selection in the 2007 NHL entry draft, played in the KHL last season.

Ryan Malone expressed confidence that he may return to the Bolts tonight. Ryan has been out of action for more than two weeks after having his knee scoped. It also gave him time to recuperate from an unspecified upper-body injury. Antero Niittymaki will get the start for the Lightning in net. Neither netminder has been consistent in net lately, but Antero has the better record against the Southeast division.

The Bolts have also recalled Blair Jones and Matt Lashoff from Norfolk of the AHL. Lashoff was sent down over the weekend along with Vladmir Mihalik, Paul Szczechura, Mark Parish and coach Jim Johnson. Jones had been up with the Lightning earlier in the season but could not cement his role with the Lightning with thanks to a lack of aptitude on offense.

For the Hurricanes, they are 5-3-2 in their past ten games. They are coming off a shutout defeat at the hands of Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils. I still find their comeback from the depths of earlier this season entirely amazing.

Our game thread opens at 7 PM for the 7:30 game start.

2010 NHL Entry Draft prospect

Continuing our look at some of the top prospects for this year's entry draft (taken from The Scouting Report)

Mark Pysyk (D)

Despite playing for one of the weakest teams in the WHL his entire career, Pysyk has continued to develop nicely over the past three seasons. He certainly isn’t the most flashy defenseman, but he plays a panic free game that coaches love. Pysyk can play in all situations and is good in transition despite still needing to work on his feet a bit. His ceiling may not be as high as some of the other players in the draft, but you have to think he’s probably going to be a sure bet for the Top 15 at this point as his game really projects well to the pro level.

Other Previews

Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview

St. Pete Times