As the Tampa Bay Lightning head into Friday night, they sit six points out of the playoffs. The Winnipeg Jets are holding on to eighth place with a one point lead over rival Washington. The playoff bubble has become tighter and tighter as the season has progressed. Just 6 points separate 8th and 12th place in the Eastern Conference. The Maple Leafs have dropped off in the last few weeks, the Sabres, Jets, and our Lightning have been winning with some consistency, while the Capitals have struggled to win big games against conference rivals. However, all of these teams have a solid chance at the eighth place spot. However, for tonight, the Lightning are focused on one thing: the first place Rangers.
The Lightning will need to step up big time tonight as they face the top ranked New York Rangers. The Bolts have held their own in games against the Blueshirts with a 1-1-1 record against the team this year. With newcomers Mike Commodore and Brian Lee, the Lightning have added a physical element that had an immediate effect on the team in their Lightning debut’s Wednesday night against Montreal. Brian Lee threw a huge hit, while Commodore was strong in front of Mathieu Garon. Tonight, we will see Keith Aulie make his Lightning debut.
With all of the newcomers and call-ups that have played with the Bolts this year, it should be no surprise that the team has struggled to establish consistency. However, we have also seen the depth of the organization. Fans should be excited for future players like Angelidis, Labrie, and Smith to make a difference at the NHL level with the Lightning. Despite taking on the top team in the conference, the Lightning must stay as relaxed and casual as possible in preparing for the game. During the game, the team must take on it’s own game plan and stick to it. The Lightning need to stay within their skill-sets and not try to out-do themselves. Tonight’s game is a big one for the Lightning, not only in the standings, but for the confidence of each and every one of the players on the roster.