Spring forward, please; Tampa Bay Lightning versus Carolina Hurricanes preview

WHERE: Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
WHEN: 7 PM EST | | TICKETS: Check Availability
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable), 970 WFLA (radio)

The Lightning lost to the Capitals on Thursday. The Capitals had lost to the Hurricanes on Tuesday. The Florida Panthers lost (in the shootout) to the Toronto Maple Leafs last night, Winnipeg lost back-to-back games against the Vancouver Canucks and the Calgary Flames...

If this is telling you the Southeast is mediocre, you're not alone. Sean Leahy at Puck Daddy went into detail on the malaise in place of a race to win the Southeast Division.

The Panthers have led the division for most of the season, but in recent weeks they've slowly failed to separate themselves from the pack, allowing the Jets, Capitals and Lightning to sneak their way into making things interesting down the stretch. Of course, while the three teams chasing Florida have made up ground, those teams have also done their part in failing to take that next step in making the divisional race tighter.

I don't recall a season where the Southeast Division has been so wide-open and so atrocious at the same time. Usually there's a singular run-away division champion (The Capitals of recent, the Carolina Hurricanes in the past, even the Tampa Bay Lightning for that matter), and the also-rans in 2nd-5th place. This season, everyone's an also-ran. The Panthers are 3 points in front of the Caps and Winnipeg's former Thrasher franchise and have failed to shut the door.

And that keeps the door open for the Lightning too, even if it's an unlikely thing. Six points out, 15 games left in the season. I'll repeat what I've said recently: it won't come easy. Tuesday pits the Bolts versus the Boston Bruins, Thursday against the Maple Leafs, next Tuesday? Buffalo, who is in the thick of the mire of bubble teams (and clawing their way toward the 8th seed in the East).

It's about time for someone - anyone! - to spring forward and claim the Southeast Division title. Will the eventual Southeast Division champion please stand up?

Dustin Tokarski gets the start in net for the Lightning tonight. Tik was in deep trouble by the third period of the Bolts 3-2 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals... No, not his play, nor was it a clear physical injury. Tik was dehydrated. He was dehydrated badly.

Dustin Tokarski was so dehydrated after Thursday night's game with the Capitals, he needed two bags of intravenous sodium chloride solution to fight off a full-body cramp.

He walked stiff-legged from the trainers' room - where he spent 45 minutes with emergency medical technicians standing by as a precaution - to the dressing room, where he said he was in so much pain in the third period he almost left the game.

...and this was in Washington, where the environs are less taxing than the heat and humidity of the great Tampa Bay area. Team trainer Tommy Mulligan has certainly already addressed the situation with Tokarski, but it's something to be wary of.

Bruno Gervais, who has been a scratch lately, skated with the team this morning while wearing the red, no-contact jersey. He'll remain out along with the likes of Vincent Lecavalier (hand/wrist fracture), Marc-Andre Bergeron (back surgery), Mathieu Garon (groin) and Mattias Ohlund (knee surgery, x3).

Good company. Painful company.

This is the season series finale between the Hurricanes and Lightning. The Canes are 4-2-4 in their past 10 games, including last week's overtime loss to the Bolts.

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