Season series finale; Philadelphia Flyers at Tampa Bay Lightning preview
WHERE: St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
WHEN: 7:30 PM EST
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable), 620 WDAE (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Broad Street Hockey
While the season-long 12-game home stand rumbles on, the Bolts once again meet up with the Philadelphia Flyers, who the Lightning last played two weeks ago as the NHL resumed after the All-Star break. That ended in a 4-0 shutout of the Flyers, Dwayne Roloson's fourth shutout since joining the Lightning in January.
But as the title suggests -- this is the season series finale between the two clubs and I really don't expect Rollie to earn another shut-out this time. No, the Flyers -- the Eastern Conference leading, President's Trophy hunting, oh-no-you-didn't-beat-us-3-times-this-season Flyers - are not coming into town with plans on suffering a regular-season series sweep at the hands of the Bolts.
Add to it the new wrinkle in the Philadelphia arsenal -- forward Kris Versteeg, acquired last night from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for a 1st and 3rd round draft pick - and you shouldn't expect the Flyers to go quietly tonight. Versteeg will be at Times Palace tonight,a nd I don't see a reason why he wouldn't be dressed.
Playoffs do not start until April, but this should be another big game crowd at the arena tonight. Will the atmosphere hold sway over who plays of the Bolts? We'll address that below the jump.
Big game, conference leading opponent, and the Lightning will continue without Mike Lundin and Ryan Malone. Both are on Injured Reserve and are scheduled to miss significant playing time (Malone, perhaps the rest of the regular season). Nate Thompson, on the other hand? No telling if he will be back in the lineup tonight or not. He's missed the past few games with head issues (a concussion -- the severity of which has been in debated for some time).
Erik Erlendsson from the Tampa Tribune tweeted that Thompson did not participate in practice this morning.
[Note by John Fontana, 02/15/11 12:12 PM EST ] Matt Smaby is sick and will not play. mike Vernace has been recalled from Norfolk Admirals.
The missing personnel weighs heavily on Guy Boucher, from Erlendsson's piece in the Tampa Tribune:
"Especially since we have injuries (to Mike Lundin and Ryan Malone), so the guys know that we have to play and compete extremely hard, even harder than we did the last time against them," Boucher said. "First, this is their last game against us … and they want this game. So we are very prepared for even a better game than they played last time. And the fact we are missing guys who were in the lineup the last time we faced them, we don't have to change our task or the way we want to play those guys, but some guys are going to have to fill in some big shoes. It's going to be a major challenge."
There's some great reading from Philly.com about their challenge with tonight's game. More context and less cliché.
The Flyers were shutout by the LA Kings on Sunday, they are 7-3-0 in their past 10, while the Lightning are 8-2-0 in the same span. The Flyers are 17th in the league on the power play (17.5% conversion rate). They are 9th in the NHL on the penalty kill (83.9% kill rate)... One tenth of a point in front of the Lightning (10th, 83.8%). The Lightning power play... well, this is an enigma. They've remained at a 20.7% power play conversion rate, and while they had fallen in the league-wide standings on the power play in recent weeks, they've climbed at 5th in the league with that static power play percentage. Meaning that as much as the Bolts have cooled off on the power play, other teams are cooling off more.
Steven Stamkos continues to league the lead in goals (40 - leading Sidney Crosby and Ryan Kesler by 8) and points (74) but Daniel Sedin is a single point behind him in that race.
It'll be Dwayne Roloson in net for the Lightning with Brian Boucher between the pipes for Philly. And of course continue to keep an eye on the line of Simon Gagne, Vincent Lecavalier and Teddy Purcell. They have 26 points over the last seven games.
Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview
Full game coverage on SB Nation