A whole mess of topics; Lightning at Canadiens preview
WHERE: Bell Centre, Montéal, Quebec
WHEN: 7:30 PM EDT
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable), 970 WFLA (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Habs Eyes On the Prize, All Habs, Four Habs Fans
Instead of opening this story up with points about the Lightning and Les Habs, I'll note that two years ago today, Raw Charge opened shop.
In two-years, we've seen a lot of changes - from the roster make up to coaching shakeups, ownership squabbling to coach vs. management issues. Did I mention roster changes? Marketing schemes? The team sale, World Class, the franchise resurrection, "All In", and a whole lot more.
It's been a hell of a ride so far, and we're thankful for those of you (the readers, the community) who have been along for this long, strange trip so far.
Back to reality and back to the matter at hand the Montreal Canadiens hosting the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight have two very big issues facing them. The first, direct issue is of potential playoff seeding: The Canadiens trail the Bolts and Northeast division leading Boston Bruins by four points in the standings. Getting ahead of Boston in the standings would give them home-ice advantage in the playoffs...
Meanwhile, the second major issue facing them going into tonight's action is injuries. You thought Tampa Bay had it bad over the last few weeks with injuries at different times to Mike Lundin, Ryan Malone, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Randy Jones and Steve Downie? Try this on for size: Brent Sopel, Matthieu Darche, Jeff Halpern, Andrei Markov, Max Pacioretty, Jason Spacek, Thomas Plekanec and Josh Gorges are all listed as "Out" or "Doubtful". The Habs called up Nigel Dawes and Aaron Palushaj as a precautionary move.
Defenseman Pavel Kubina will be back in the lineup for the Bolts tonight after serving his three game suspension. That gives Guy Boucher either the opportunity to rest any other defenseman who is ailing, or to re-employ his 11-forward, 7-defenseman lineup.
On the other side of the ice: the first player ever drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Roman Hamrlik, will play his 1,300th NHL game tonight. Congratulations to him. The only other active former Lightning player to cross the 1,000 game threshhold is Daymond Langkow who also happened to accomplish the feat while playing against the Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum last season. (Chris Gratton, who is out of hockey, played in 1,092 career games.)
The Canadiens are all sevens on special teams, having the league's 7th ranked power play unit (19.7%) and penalty kill unit (83.9%). On the penalty kill, the Bolts are a full percentage point behind the Habs (82.9%) and are ranked 11th in the league. The power play? 6th ranked, with a 20.7% conversion rate. Speaking of which, the 6-2 win over the Toronto male Leafs was accomplished iwthout a single power-play goal for the Lightning. A rare feat.
Dwayne Roloson is between the pipes for the Lightning tonight, and Carey Price (2011 Vezina Trophy candidate that he will be) shall start for the Habs.