Feb 26 2012; Newark, NJ, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Nate Thompson (44) pursues the puck against the New Jersey Devils during the first period at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Alan Maglaque-US PRESSWIRE

Bolts Look To Strike In IIHF Worlds (Plus Jim's Playoff Predictions)

Feb 26 2012; Newark, NJ, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Teddy Purcell (16) looks for a pass against the New Jersey Devils during the first period at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Alan Maglaque-US PRESSWIRE

Even though the 2011-12 campaign is over for the Tampa Bay Lightning, a number of Bolts are not yet hanging up their skates or their suit and tie for that matter.

Lightning forwards Nate Thompson and newcomer J.T. Brown have been selected to join Team USA for the 2012 IIHF World Championships.  This will be the first appearance for both Thompson and Brown at the World Championships.  Though I am glad to see both get this chance, I am especially pleased to see Brown get the nod, as this will give him even more development time with a higher level of play than the NCAA.

Nov 28, 2011; St. Paul, MN, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Guy Boucher against the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center. The Wild defeated the Lightning 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE

Team Canada has tagged two members of the Lightning organization.  Forward Teddy Purcell and Head Coach Guy Boucher.  Purcell, who finished with a Hat Trick (including the OT Winner) in the Bolts last game of the season, will be hoping that his hot stick has still got the touch when he lands in Finland.  As for the Coach, he has been named an Assistant Coach for Team Canada, his first time for the World Championships Squad.  He has served as an assistant coach for 2009 Canadian National Junior Team and 2008 Mens U-18 Team, earning gold in both championships.

Best of luck to all the Bolts in this year’s Worlds.

Before I close this out, here are my picks for the Conference Quarter Finals.  (Winners in bold)

LAK / VAN : If Vancouver can account for the missing Sedin, stop their theatrics and focus on playing Hockey, they will dethrone the Kings.

SJS / STL : With the dynamic duo of Elliot and Halak coupled with the Blues stifling style of play, the Sharks will not make it past the first round.

CHI / PHX : With Mike Smith’s inspired play throughout the season he will lead the ‘Yotes to their first series win.

DET / NSH : This just very well may be the year of the Predator, between Rinne and a blueline led by Weber and Suter, Detroit will have it’s Wings clipped.

OTT / NYR : Rangers are simply just clicking this year, between King Hank, a solid blueline and better lines on forward, they will easily oust the Senators from office. (Bonus Reason:  No Sean Avery)

WSH / BOS : Washington woke up as it came down to the wire, but this is the playoffs now, and history shows us that that is never a good time for the Caps.  Bruins will easily dispatch Washington.

NJD / FLA : Pretty simple, look at the last month or so of the regular season and you will see who the winner of this series will be.  But I’ll save you the trouble, it’s the Devils.  They’ve been gaining more and more intensity as the Cats have been fighting to not take a nap.

PHI / PIT :  Let’s get ready to RUMBLE!  This is going to be one nasty series.  I’m giving it to the Pens.  Even though Bryz has just about found the goalie-light, it’s too little too late when you are continually facing Crosby, Malkin, Neal, and company.

– Jim Courteau

Follow me on Twitter @BlackSheepJim

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Tags: Guy Boucher J.T. Brown Nate Thompson Playoff Predictions Stanley Cup Tampa Bay Lightning Teddy Purcell

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