Shenanigans; Tampa Bay Lightning versus Philadelphia Flyers preview

The last two times the Tampa Bay Lightning have hosted the Philadelphia Flyers, hijink have ensued on ice - be it stall tactics or made-for-TV moments.

WHERE: Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
WHEN: 6 PM EST | | TICKETS: Check Availability
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable), 970 WFLA (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Orange and Black Pack, Broad Street Hockey, The Orange Update

I think we've all, as hockey fans, dealt with enough sideshow acts over the last few months with regards to the 2012 lockout and collective bargaining antics from the NHL and NHL Players Association. We've dealt with so much, in fact, we're (fans of the NHL collectively) pretty much set until probably sometime during the 2014-15 season.

That's part of why I'm not thrilled with the notion the Philadelphia Flyers roll into town early this evening for a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. After last season, the Flyers collective identity is for theatrics and the sideshow.

You do remember November 9th, 2011 don't you? When Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette decided he must take a stand against the indomitable scourge that is the 1-3-1 defensive scheme employed by the Lightning. The tactic was simply having his players (possessing the puck and needing to move out of the Flyers own zone) not to move until the Lightning broke their defensive formation. The result was a ridiculous stalemate that ruined the game and made for some utter tripe of a "debate" against the 1-3-1 defense as a problem in the NHL...

Then there was the December 27th game in Tampa too... I'll call it the "Winter Classic screen time game" as Scott Hartnell decided he needed to be part of the Lightning's bench huddle while HBO 24/7 cameras were on him as part of the "Road to the Winter Classic" television show.

What kind of sideshow is Philadelphia going to employ this time? And are Mike Milbury and Keith Jones at NBC Sports Net already planning to go to bat for them on the next NBCSN hockey broadcast?

Moving away from past shenanigans, Philadelphia is coming into town and scheduled to play just 23 hours removed from the start of their last game, one that finally saw the Flyers offense breakout. A 7-1 crushing of the Florida Panthers in Sunrise should be a morale boost for a hockey team that's struggled in the early going this year. Their already thin defense has lost Andrej Meszaros for a month with a shoulder injury.

Going into last night, the Flyers offense could be described as sputtering at best - 1-3-0 in their first four games and had yet to score in the 1st or 3rd periods during those first four games. At least for one night, they remedied that problem; the Flyers scored three times in the 1st period and twice in the third.

For a team that had been doing all of its offense in the 2nd period, the Flyers should be looking forward to playing the Bolts tonight (...if they have gas left in the tank after last night). Tampa Bay's weak period is the 2nd, giving up 10 goals in its four games this season on 54 shots by opponents (a 13.5 average). While some fans may be weary of Bolts goaltending not standing up in face of this challenge (Anders Lindback is on record as having given up 9 of 10 2nd period goals), captain Vincent Lecavalier presents the issue as a team-centric one, not just one player:

"You gotta' look at what we're doing wrong and why we're doing these things in the second period," Vinny said on Saturday. "We always come back in the third in the right way. It's tough to say why but it's something we have to correct. You make mistakes, you have to correct them."

"We talked about it before the second yesterday; we talked about it before the second the game before and even against the Islanders because of the second period in our first game. It's just something we have to overcome if we want to be a winning team."

Technically, the Lightning are a winning team at this point in spite of the 2nd period flaw, but if they want to remain one they certainly do need to correct things and contend in all 3 periods.

Matt Carle will be playing his first game against the Flyers since joining the Bolts this summer via free agency. Speaking of joining the Bolts, Carle has more points after four games this season (3) than he had in his entire first stint of 13 games with the Lightning in his first stint in Tampa Bay in 2008-09 (2).

It'll be Anders Lindback starting in goal for the Lightning this evening. It's unclear at this point who starts in net for the Flyers - Ilya Bryzgalov faced 31 shots last night during the Flyers victory... Reason enough not to play him and start Michael Leighton instead... We'll see how that plays out.

The Bolts will go back to the 12-6 lineup split with Dana Tyrell playing as the 12th forward and Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Marc-Andre Bergeron and Brendan Mikkelson scratched.

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