Preseason finale; Tampa Bay Lightning versus Florida Panthers preview

How close is the lineup tonight to that of the opening night lineup for the Tampa Bay Lightning?

Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida
When: 7 PM EDT | Tickets: Check availability
Media: 970 AM WFLA (radio) | Twitter Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: Litter Box Cats

The Tampa Bay Lightning made a roster cut this morning - but it wasn't an unexpected one. Allen York, the #5 goalie on the team depth chart, has been optioned to the Florida Everblades of the ECHL. This move was expected - eventually - when he wasn't cut last Saturday and did not travel with the Syracuse Crunch to Lyon, France. York backed up goalie Evgeni Nabokov during Thursday's game against the Florida Panthers in Sunrise.

It's also been stated in recent days that one game this preseason was to be a tandem - half and half - between Ben Bishop and Nabokov. Seeing both goalies are going to be on the roster tonight and dressed, it's probably safe to assume both will see about 30 minutes of playing time.

But should anyone read into the lineup at all for tonight's game? I made mention of how players are still on the bubble on Thursday, and by that logic some might see tonight's lineup as the bubble bursting for any number of players. Defensively, the Lightning are slated to dress six and the pairings are the veteran / regular force: Victor Hedman with Anton Stralman, Jason Garrison with Radko Gudas, Eric Brewer with Matt Carle. You know Tampa Bay will not go into the season light on defense; a seventh (and eighth) D will be carried, but tonight doesn't look like an assessment of one is going to go on.

At forward, the guys on the bubble in the lineup are Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov, who will be skating with Brett Connolly on the right side. Everyone else in the forward combos should be looked at as a lock in the lineup - Steven Stamkos is in, Brendan Morrow will play. Kucherov is playing in his sixth preseason game; he's been in all of them.

There's another thing to think about here, and that's the fact the organization may already know who is staying and who is going. Tampa Bay is in an odd position where sending a guy down now (one of the AHL guys who were trying to make the club) would be more costly to do - Syracuse is in Lyon, France for the preseason. Instead of buying a ticket to central New York, you'd be buying him a ticket on a trans-Atlantic flight. Could defenseman Luke Witkowski and forward Jonathan Marchessault (who haven't played in the last two games) be out? Or are player assessments going to continue in practice until game day on October 9th? Richard Panik is also not skating tonight, but neither is Jonathan Drouin and everyone should doubt he's going back to the QMJHL and the Halifax Mooseheads.

The Florida Panthers went into Thursday's contest with a thick roster; the stood at 31 players. Seven have been axed and the club is down to 24 players. What you'll see tonight at Times Palac-er, the Amalie is going to be something real close to what the Panthers will be skating on opening night next week. You also might expect a shared crease time between Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya.

Keep an eye out for / ear open regarding the Kucherov - Namestnikov - Connolly line. I don't think the task for them will be to just score, but to show overall responsibility and readiness... And yes, I can see Vladdy sticking in Tampa. Who loses a roster spot because of this isn't clear.

Other Game Coverage:

Outside of Tampa, which Florida city would you most like to see host a Lightning preseason game?

Daytona (Ocean Center)19
Estero (Germain Arena)40
Jacksonville ( Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena,)33
Lakeland (Lakeland Center)48
Orlando (Amway Center)134
Pensacola (Pensacola Bay Center)20
Tallahassee (Donald L. Tucker Civic Center)18