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Beware the blaze; Tampa Bay Lightning versus Calgary Flames preview

Where:  Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
When: 7:30 PM EDT | Tickets: Check availability
Television: Fox Sports Florida | Radio: 970 AM WFLA
Opponent Coverage: Matchsticks and Gasoline,Flames Nation

Tonight’s contest has “trap game” written all over it, and I’m not talking about the defensive scheme. The Lightning have their playoff berth, the focus is on playoff seeding now, and the opponent is a bottom-dweller of the NHL in the form of the Calgary Flames.

At 31-38-7, losers of their past two but .500 in their past 10 games, it’s easy to write off Calgary. But can you really write off a team that’s played in 46 one-goal games during the season?  They are 22-17-7 in one-goal game affairs, which is a better winning percentage (.478) than what the Lightning have in one-goal games (18-11-9, .474.)

Calgary might be in prime position for a top-five draft pick in 2014, but turning some of those one-goal losses into wins (or into more overtime games) puts them back in contention rather quickly…. Or at least it would in the East, aern Conference, as the East is the weaker of the two conferences.  That’s a topic of discussion for another time though.

With Jay Feaster out as GM of the Flames and Brian Burke in, the Flames are being Burked-up in the form of a more physical team. College free agent Bryce Van Brabant was signed over the weekend by the team and made his NHL debut on Tuesday night in Toronto during the team’s 3-2 loss to the Maple Leafs. The 6’3″, 205 pound Van Brabant, who had been playing for Quinnipiac University (home school of Lightning prospect Matthew Peca) joined Brian McGrattan and Kevin Westgarth on the Flames fourth line and saw 5:35 of ice time. That line, with size and strength, is one intimidating combo. You should not be surprised to see it (or a combo that features McGrattan and Westgarth at least) on the opening faceoff tonight for the Flames, as they’ve done it before with certain infamous results.

Former Bolt Karri Ramo will be between the pipes for the Flames tonight, posting a serviceable .909 save percentage and a 2.66 goals-against average. I know I shouldn’t opine too much here but I’m not sure Ramo is long for the Flames under Burke; he’s not a bad netminder but he was a Jay Feaster boy when his rights were acquired from the Montreal Canadiens.

And for the lightning, they’ll further overwork start Ben Bishop tonight, who blanked the Flames in Calgary in early January.

With Michael Kostka concussed (and he told Damian Cristodero he’s feeling good, all things considered) Mark Barberio was seeing time with Eric Brewer during the morning skate at Times Palaces. Besides that, it looks to be largely the same 12 forward / 6 defenseman lineup form Tuesday (with Keith Aulie, Richard Panik, Tom Pyatt and Cody Kunyk scratched.)

Other Game Coverage:

Will RW Ryan Callahan ultimately re-sign with the Tampa Bay Lightning?

Yes 138
NO 122

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