Canadiens (35-23-7) at Lightning (37-20-7) at 7:00 p.m.
The Lightning look to snap a two game skid tonight against the Montreal Canadiens on Hockey Night in Canada. The Bolts have dropped the last two games by identical 2-1 decisions in similar fashion: a tight game in which the Lightning happen to be the team to make the final mistake.
In fact, Tampa’s last four games have all ended in 2-1 scores; they just won the first two against the Devils and the Rangers. Coach Guy Boucher is happy that his team is improving defensively, but they seem to be sacrificing their offense in the process of trying to find that balance. More and more games are going to look like this as the season winds down.
The likely goalie matchup will be between a red-hot Carey Price (who only allowed one goal in his last two games) and Dwayne Roloson.
While both teams are somewhat battered, the Lightning have more injuries to key players. Steve Downie has been ruled out for tonight after injuring his ankle against the Bruins. Vinny Lecavalier will be a game-time decision, as will Lundin. Ryan Malone is still on IR with an abdominal injury.
Despite these injuries, the Lightning have to try and generate the same kind of offense they did against the Bruins. They got 26 shots on goal, but was a large improvement on their 17 shots the game before. Sure, without guys like Downie, Lecavalier, and Malone in your lineup it’s going to be hard to muster up an offensive juggernaut. But the Bolts must fight through it as the division race gets even tougher.
The Capitals are only one point behind the Lightning, and this will be Tampa’s one game in hand. With new acquisitions, the Capitals are looking more like the fast, up-tempo style of old, and the Bolts have to be able to keep pace down the stretch if they hope to win their first division title since 2004.
As always, it will be a battle between tradition and expansion when the puck drops tonight. The pretentious Habs fans believe this is their game, and it has no right to be in the South, and Southern teams have no right to beat them. We’ll see which teams show up at 7, all of this leading up to a potential division-deciding game on Monday against the Capitals.