Devils at Lightning Preview (1/14/11)

Roloson (AP)

Devils (11-29-2) at Lightning (26-13-5) 7:30 pm on Sun (HD)

This will be the first of four meetings between the two Eastern Conference teams.

After two big games between Washington Capitals in the span of ten days, the Lightning look to extend their division lead tonight against the last-place Devils.  Thirteen seeds separate the Bolts and Devils in the Conference standings, but Tampa Bay can’t afford to look past anyone if they want to stay in their position.  The Capitals are still on their heels for the division lead, and the Boston Bruins are primed to take over the 2nd seed position.

The last time Dwayne Roloson started back-to-back games, he shutout the Capitals 1-0 before allowing four goals in the first period to the Pittsburgh Penguins before being pulled.  Hopefully history won’t repeat itself against the worst offensive team in the league.

This will be a big game for Steven Stamkos as well.  He’s been in a bit of a scoreless drought, and the Devils have the fourth worst GAA in the league, allowing an average of 3.14 goals per game.  Martin Brodeur has been slumping of late, leaving the majority of the starts to Johan Hedberg.  Despite who is in net, the Devils have major holes on defense (which will be missing Anton Volchenkov) that the Lightning can take advantage of to get some of their offensive weapons going again.

Stamkos (NHL Snipers)

If the Lightning can get out to a quick start, it will go a long way to hurting the mentality of the Devils. They have a .091 winning percentage when trailing after the first period.  If the Lightning can get out ahead early, they may be able to conserve some energy before getting on a plane to play the Hurricanes in Raleigh tomorrow night.

It may be easy for the Lightning to overlook this game with three division games in the next week, but that would be a mistake.  If they want to put space between them and the rest of the Southeast, they need to win games they are supposed to win.  That won’t be a problem if the team that showed up on Wednesday against the Caps shows up again tonight.

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