Finally, hockey fans can finally be grateful for something. Hockey is back! In what has been a roller coaster ride of a lockout, the NHL and the NHLPA have come to an agreement that will hopefully be ratified in the next few days. But enough of all this business talk, its time to talk about the season. The Tampa Bay Lightning must be ready to play because a slow start could finish a team really quickly in this shortened season. This post will be a short one, just highlighting my thoughts on the opening night roster. I will reference everyone to my articles a few months ago which evaluated each position and gave the lineup predictions.
For the forwards, I still believe in the top two lines that I have set down being Ryan Malone with Steven Stamkos and Brett Connolly. Connolly needs to be with skilled players and this will allow Martin St. Louis to get back with Vincent Lecavalier along with Teddy Purcell. This line should be a dominant force and give the Bolts a much needed one-two punch. The third line gets interesting because of young J.T Brown’s broken collarbone. I had him penciled in on a line with Tommy Pyatt and Benoit Pouliot but now this line must be altered. I think that incoming forward Kyle Wilson from the Nashville Predators or J.T Wyman could fit in on this line nicely. The short training camp will determine this. Nate Thompson has a guaranteed spot in the lineup and then the last two spots will be filled by two of Adam Hall, B.J Crombeen, and Dana Tyrell. It really will all depend on who is the hottest because Coach Guy Boucher cannot afford to waste any time. My previous forward predictions can be found here.
On defense it becomes much simpler. Their are eight defensemen on one-way contracts so these eight, Victor Hedman, Eric Brewer, Sami Salo, Matt Carle, Brian Lee, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Keith Aulie, and Brendan Mikkelson will be on the roster. I do not forsee anyone else on defense from the minors playing because of contract situations. My pairings would be Hedman with Brewer, Salo with Carle, and Lee with Aulie. This would allow Boucher to play Bergeron as the 7th defenseman on most nights. My defense thoughts have not changed and can be found here as well as the goaltending situation.
In goal, all Lightning fans will be hoping that Anders Lindback can be the savior that we have been waiting for here in Bolts Nation. It will be Lindback and returning backup goaltender Mathieu Garon to control the crease. I think this has the potential to be a solid duo in the NHL and lead the Bolts back to the playoffs. That all starts with the first game, which is finally going to be played in the next couple of weeks. Of course all of these predictions are subject to change as free agents can be added, trades can be made, or injuries can occur, but I believe this lineup can get the Bolts back into the playoffs and fighting for the Stanley Cup Championship.