Lightning (43-24-11) at Blackhawks (42-27-8) at 7:00 p.m.
The Bolts take their 4-game winning streak into Chi-town tonight to take on the surging Blackhawks. The two teams met just under a month ago in Tampa, and the Lightning took a tight 4-3 decision from the defending Stanley Cup Champions.
The Balckhawks had a rough time in the beginning of the season. After winning the Cup, Dale Tallon’s poor long-term cap management forced them to blow up the team, sending several key pieces around the league. Forced to fill those holes with minor-leaguers and rookies, much of the season has been an adjustment for the Hawks. However, they have found their stride in the last few months, and they are looking more and more like the Blackhawks of last year. They are sitting in 8th in the ever-tight Western conference, three points ahead of the Flames.
The Lightning, on the other hand, are coming off two big wins over the Penguins and the Wild. They are becoming more and more comfortable in tight, defensive, playoff-style one-goal games. This is another test game for the Bolts as they try to find a rhythm before heading into the post season.
Ryan Malone has returned and scored his first goal in nearly three months yesterday. The Bolts will have to be weary of the potential let down of back-to-back games, especially since it will also be their third game in four nights. Mike Smith will get the start tonight, as Dwayne Roloson carried the team to a win yesterday afternoon.
Both teams are looking to gain some traction, and the Lightning get another opportunity to pull within a point of home-ice advantage in the playoffs. With a regulation loss for the Bolts, the Caps will clinch the Southeast Divsion title.
Grit has come back to Tampa’s game, and they are going to have to use it again tonight. Most of their goals lately have come from crashing the net and getting in close on goalies. They have to continue jamming away to get success, especially since their top stars aren’t scoring at their usual clip. Driving the net is the best slump-breaker, and the Bolts will continue to find success if they keep up their intensity.