The game to blame your local blackout on: Lightning at Rangers from the Garden (preview)

WHERE: Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York
MEDIA: Versus (Cable), 620 WDAE (radio)
OPPONENT BLOG: Blueshirt Banter

For the general NHL public who is pissed off because your favorite NHL team's game is not being broadcast tonight, go ahead and blame it on us.

No, wait, don't blame it on us.  Don't blame it on the Rangers either.  It's not Lightning versus Rags that is the source of the stupidity of the broadcast variety.  Nope, the stupidity lies in the "less-is-more" approach to nationally televised cable broadcasts of the NHL on Versus.

Monday broadcasts and then Tuesday night marquee games and then...  Well, and then nothing.  The rest of the league either has to start their game later in order to escape the blackout rule (employed usually by west coast teams), or they're forced to live with the blackout.  The fans lose out and the league loses out because Versus profile isn't high enough to generate the buzz of a "must see" game that makes you forget about your own team's match-up that night.

It's because of this I realize why people clamor for the days of yore with ESPN.  Your team had arrived when you were going to be highlighted on an ESPN broadcast.  But, by the end of it's contract in 2004, ESPN had lost all interest in giving the NHL marquee coverage like they enjoyed during the 1990's.  ESPN is now overloaded with sports and Versus has failed to make an impression as competition.

It's not our fault your game is blacked-out tonight, league.  If it were up to me, Versus would be carrying games three nights a week (Monday, Wednesday and Saturday) and saturating the airwaves with coverage instead of trying to force viewers in by-way of blackout of competing game telecasts.  Make it a must-see destination and people will come on their own.

The Rumor and the Truth

Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun set the table for tonight's game with his latest news report, rumor pulled-from-his-ass comment that the New York Rangers were trying to orchestrate a trade with the Lightning for team captain Vincent Lecavalier. You connect the dots and you can see why something like this would be presented: The Rangers have the money to afford Lecavalier, Lecavalier knows the system that he'd be playing under in New York, Vinny and Vaclav Prospal are buddies...

The problem is the fact Lecavalier loves Tampa, that Lecavalier has a no-movement clause, and that Lecavalier didn't particularly enjoy his time under John Tortorella the first time around. Oh, that and the fact the trade was supposed to be in the works to spark the Rangers offense while Lecavalier himself has yet to be sparked this season.

No, Bruce is wrong. If Glen Sather called about anyone on the Tampa Bay Lightning roster (which Lightning GM Brian Lawton denies ) in hopes to spark the Rangers offense, it would be for the services of Martin St. Louis and not Lecavalier. This would be encouraged by John Tortorella. I realize Ranger fans are not going to jump up and down with the idea of Sather chasing someone over 30, but St. Louis remains a spark-plug on offense as well as a jack-of-all-trades.

Not that it happened.   And not that anyone in Tampa would tolerate St. Louis being traded.

Oh, yeah, and there's a game tonight...

The Lightning snapped an eight-game losing streak in Carolina last night and a two-game losing streak (at the hands of the Florida Panthers). The mediocrity of the Eastern Conference keeps the Bolts at four-points out of the final playoff spot. The efforts for the team remain inconsistent enough to expect the Lightning to be on the outside, looking in, when the season ends in April... But the fact remains that the Bolts are thisclose to being in the playoffs, but are in prime position at current for great tee-times come spring.

The Rangers are another story.  They are currently in the fifth seed for the playoffs, and are 5-2-3 in their past ten, but the Rags are all of five points in front of the Lightning in the conference standings (and shows how important the two games against the Panthers were).  What started as a voracious start for New York during the early part of the season has cooled, considerably.

And for the local fans that are still holding Vinny Prospal's hot-start over the head of Alex Tanguay in the court of public opinion, the two players are a total of eight points apart when you compare personal statistics. Prospal with 34 points on the season (mostly thru assists) and Tanguay with 26. Was the trade-off between players really that harmful by way of production? Prospal is playing next to Marian Gaborik. You'd think both numbers (goals and assists) would be higher for him

Indeed, Gaborik has 57 points on the season and has been an offensive machine for the Rags.

The Rangers are 15th in the league on the power play with a 18.7% conversion rate.  That's .2% behind the Lightning who are ranked 14th in the league.  On the other hand, the Rags are a dominant 86.1% on the penalty kill, fourth in the league, while the Lightning are 23rd with an 80% kill rate.

Antero Niittymaki starts between the pipes (again) tonight for the Lightning. We can only assume that Henrik Lundqvist will be in the crease for the Rangers.

Tampa Bay Lightning Projected Lines

(updated January 19, 2010 by Raw Charge - subject to change)

Forward Lines:

Alex Tanguay - Vincent Lecavalier - Jeff Halpern
Steve Downie - Steven Stamkos - Martin St. Louis
Ryan Malone - Paul Szczechura - Brandon Bochenski
James Wright - Zenon Konopka - Stephane Veilleux


Mattias Ohlund - Mike Lundin
Kurtis Foster - Victor Hedman
Andrej Meszaros - Matt Smaby


Antero Niittymaki (starter)
Dustin Tokarski

Probable Ranger lines (as posted by The New York Rangers Blog):

Probable Lines:

Del Zotto-Girardi

Other Previews

Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview



[Note by John Fontana, 01/19/10 2:05 PM EST ] Sotry edited for grammar, typos and general wording