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Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Rangers

Tonight, our Tampa Bay Lightning head home for their first game back from their four-game road trip through the Western Conference. It also a very special night, as tonight we will honor our captain Martin St. Louis as we celebrate him playing his 1000th game in the NHL. Let’s take a look at the matchup between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Rangers.

Feb. 28, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Rangers left wing Carl Hagelin (62) and Tampa Bay Lightning center Alex Killorn (17) battle for the puck during the first period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

There is no doubt in my mind that tonight’s game is going to be a challenge. The Rangers are on a two game winning streak, whereas the Lightning are coming off of a 4 game losing streak; their first real losing streak of the season.

While no one on the Lightning has caught up to Steven Stamkos’ point totals just yet, but there are three players that are well on their way.

The closest is St. Louis. Right now, he has 8 goals and 13 assists for a total of 21 points. This means that he is only 3 points shy of passing Stamkos’ 23 points.

Coming in behind St. Louis is center Valtteri Filppula. Filppula has 4 points in the last 5 games with 9 goals and 7 assists so far this season. This gives him a point total of 16.

Bringing up the rear is center Alex Killorn. Killer has 6 goals and 9 assists for a point total of 15 so far this season.

On the other side of the ice, it is former Lightning center Brad Richards that is holding it down for the Rangers right now in regards to points. He has 6 goals and 10 assists for a total of 16 points with a plus-3 rating.

Just behind him is center Derek Stepan. Stepan has 5 goals and 11 assist, which puts him on par with Richards for points to far this season. He is also leading the Rangers in assists.

So far this season, it is right wing Ryan Callahan who is leading the Rangers in goals with 6. Add in his 3 assists and he has a total of 9 points this season.

When you take a look at the numbers, these two teams are pretty evenly matched.

Rangers

Bolts

Goals Per Game 2.09 2.78
Goal Against Per Game 2.35 2.65
Shots on Goal Per Game 31.78 28.04
Penalty Minutes Per Game 12.87 12.52
Power Play Goals 14 15
Power Play Percentage 18.4% 17.9%
Penalty Kill Percentage 84.6% 85.2%

These two teams are pretty much even in almost every way, even on special teams. The only difference between the two of them is the Shots on Goal which slightly favor the Rangers.

This season, the Lightning have had a leg up on the competition this season in regards to special teams. Without that advantage in their corner, they are going to have to find ways to keep themselves out of the box, and hit them from all sides.

The similarities carry over into the goaltender matchup as well.

Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is 7-9 in his 17 appearances so far this season. This has given him a GAA of 2.36 and a Save Percentage of .921. One the other side of the ice, Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop is 13-3 in his 18 appearances so far this season with a GAA of 2.20 and a Save Percentage of .926.

As you can see, these two are pretty evenly matched.

This means that the Lightning offense is really going to have to step it up and, in my opinion, stop playing the passing game. The Lightning have fallen into a really bad habit so far this season of overpassing the puck, which has resulted in one too many turnovers and even in a few goals. In order for the Lightning to get on the board, they are going to have to pepper Lundqvist with shots. This means that people need to be positioned in front of the net and prepared to dig for those rebounds.

I know that the team is struggling with injuries right now, but there are still quite a few people on the roster that have the offensive firepower to get the job done.

If the Lightning can keep themselves out of the box, and consistently keep the pressure on the Rangers, the Lightning will have the opportunity they have been waiting for to get back on track and maintain their position as one of the top teams in the Atlantic Division.

What do you think the Bolts need to do to get back on track and bring home the two points tonight? Sound off in the comments below and let us know what you think.

 

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Topics: NHL, Tampa Bay Lightning

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