The epic homestand begins; Thrashers at Lightning preview
WHERE:St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
WHEN: 5 PM EST
MEDIA: Sun Sports (Cable), 620 WDAE (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Bird Watchers Anonymous
12 home games. In a row.
I'm not exactly sure what caused this to happen with the NHL schedule design... But this anomaly -- an epic 12 game home stand for a road-wary Lightning team -- comes at a time where the Bolts need a break from constant travels.
And they are getting a break, a big one. Now through late February, the Bolts only travels will be personal trips here and there (oh, and Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos trek to Raleigh, North Carolina for the All-Star game).
Is this a good break for the Lightning? Yes, and no. With the best home record in the NHL and 29 road games played this season, an additional degree of stability right now is a plus. Head coach Guy Boucher and General Manager Steve Yzerman are both wary about repetition and monotony setting in.
But lets not get lost in the larger picture right now. It's time to focus on finishing a rocky three-game stretch against divisional opponents -- it's time to face Atlanta again and shut the door.
Watching the Bolts game in Sunrise, you couldn't help but think the Lightning really do struggle with back-to-back contests. That's been especially evident in January with poor efforts against the Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils, and Carolina Hurricanes. The Florida Panthers game Friday night, coming on the heels of the Lightning's shootout victory over the Thrashers, was no exception. The Panthers dominated, but Dan Ellis' effort in net and Steve Downie's goal gave the Lightning the enough to persevere until the shootout, where Dominic Moore sealed the win.
The Lightning aren't the team playing back-to-back contests this afternoon, however. That would be the Thrashers. For their second straight game, they lost in the shootout to the New York Rangers.
With that frustration and with having lost in the shootout to division leading Tampa Bay just three days ago, they come to Times Palace with a chip on their shoulder... As well as the burden of having lost ten straight games to the Lightning since last season. In fact, the Thrashers last victory against Tampa Bay was the season opener in 2009-10.
I'm not even sure what to expect this afternoon from the Lightning. Games that I figured they'd contend in , of recent, have gone the other way. I can't quite expect either team to dominate. They're both playing their third game in four days. it gives neither team an edge.
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Will the 12 game homestand help or hurt the Lightning?