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Marty St. Louis’ Day Off? Tampa Bay Lightning versus Minnesota Wild preview

Where: Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
When: 7:30 PM EDT | Tickets: Check availability
Media: Sun Sports (cable) | 970 AM WFLA (radio)
Opponent Coverage: Hockey Wilderness

Tampacuse got another representative on the roster last night with the recall of Brett Connolly. Brett was called up due to captain Martin St. Louis‘ ambiguous lower body injury. Marty’s day-to-day (we’re all day-to-day…) and to be honest when this writer heard his status, I dismissed the idea he may miss the game. This is Marty, after all. Marty endures and thrives despite the pain.

But, at 38 years old, perhaps caution and a night off is more important than suffering and being prolific? Connolly was skating with Steven Stamkos and Ryan Malone during morning practice, so right now it looks like St. Louis will indeed sit tonight and Connolly will make his season debut. The recall increases the Syracuse Crunch alumni quotient to 10 players on the Bolts roster.

Note from John: Just before I published this story, I checked Twitter and what did I find? Marty isn’t out. That wouldn’t fit his usual antics. Nope…

As was said in a comment on the article about the recall, it may also put pressure on Richard Panik to step up his game. Panik, along with Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat, is part of the reason Brett ended up in Syracuse and not on the opening night roster. The “Top Gun” chemistry of the trio outweighed the individual performance of the former first round draft pick. But Panik has had his ups and downs during the early going this season; he’s been moved off the line with his Syracuse teammates and placed on the wing on Valtteri Filppula’s second line. Panik has two assists in five games and is a minus-4.

Connolly has only played 3 games with Syracuse so far this season, recording a single point (an assist) and is even in the plus/minus category. General Manager Steve Yzerman said at the time of Connolly’s demotion that he wanted Brett playing top-line, big minutes, not third-line minutes as the roster had at the time of the move.

Off the roster moves and drama that comes with it and on to tonight’s matchup, Minnesota has been a rare visitor to Times Palace, making only seven visits since their inception into the NHL.  They’re also a rare victory for the Lightning, who have gone 4-9-1 all-time against Minnesota.  That’s bleak.  2-4-1 all-time at the Forum is their record.  Realignment and the schedule reform will afford Tampa Bay a chance to improve the numbers in this series, but it’ll take years to do so.

Minnesota is 3-2-2 and standing in fourth place in the Western Conference’s central division, with an even goals for/against (17).  They’ll have Josh Harding starting in net tonight, who has a 3-1-0 record and has been anything but a pushover in his five appearances this season: a .952 save percentage and a 0.94 goals-against average.

The Wild are currently lead on offense by the wunderkind known as… Matt Cooke? Wait, wait, lemme get this straight: Matt Cooke, former Pittsburgh Penguin and renowned scumbag, leads the Wild with 6 points (3 goals, 3 assists) andhas yet to record a penalty minute this season? I’m flabbergasted. The Wild do have someone of note that currently leads the team in penalty minutes though, and he’s a round-about Tampacuse alumnus as well: Zenon Konopka. Zeke played for both Syracuse and the Lightning – just when they weren’t affiliated, and didn’t just earn a rep for being a pugilist with both franchises – he was loved by both clubs fan bases.

Yeah, well, will he be so loved if he squares of with B.J. Crombeen or Ryan Malone or another Bolt with a reputation for being willing to drop’em? Find out tonight.

Ben Bishop will once again be out to own the board tonight for the Bolts. While his numbers aren’t as snazzy as Josh Harding’s, Ben’s .939 save percentage and 1.71 GAA are a damn sight better than what Lightning fans are used to seeing out of their netminders. But, mind you, don’t take Ben’s 4-0-0 record and consider it a sign Anders Lindback is no good. If you haven’t already, read Kyle Alexander’s extensive piece on Lindback that ran earlier today.

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