Tonight, the Tampa Bay Lightning takes on the Buffalo Sabres at the Tampa Bay Times Forum to begin a six-game home stand.
To say that this has been a trying week for the Lightning would be a bit of an understatement.
After dropping three of the four games in our road trip we come home to Tampa Bay only to get some of the best and worst news that we could hope for all in the same day.
However, there is no time to dwell as there is work to be done.
As most of you already know, Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos will be rejoining the lineup tonight. This is something that most fans have been counting the seconds for ever since November when the “break heard around the world” happened.
Hopefully, tonight’s game will be a fresh start for the Bolts and they can move past all the drama that has been surrounding them as of late.
There is a part of me that wants to tell you that tonight’s game is going to be a walk in the park, as we are playing the worst team in the National Hockey League right now; however, it is when we start to underestimate our opponent that we find ourselves with 5 goals in the back of our net. In other words, despite what we feel we may be up against, we still need to bring our “A” game tonight.
So far this season, the Buffalo Sabres are 18-35-8. To make matters worse for them, they are only 6-18-3 on the road. When you look at this purely by the numbers, things don’t seem to get much better for the Sabres.
|Goals Per Game|| |
|Goals Against Per Game|| |
|Shots on Goal Per Game|| |
|Penalty Minutes Per Game|| |
|Power Play Goals|| |
|Power Play Percentage|| |
|Penalty Kill Percentage|| |
Now, there is one area of contention where the Sabres give the Bolts a run for their money, and unfortunately it is one of the areas that we tend to struggle with; the penalty kill. The Bolts Power Play hasn’t been really where it needs to be for quite some time. Hopefully, with Stammer back in the lineup things will begin to change a little here.
There are going to be quite a few things that are going to be essential to the Bolts bringing home the two points tonight. The first of which is to shoot the puck. While I understand that a certain amount of passing is necessary to take the puck down the ice, the only way that they are going to score a goal is if we take shots on goal.
Ryan Malone has always been good at digging for rebounds when he finds himself in front of the net. This is something that I would like to see him get back to doing.
Also, the defense is going to have to step it up. Anders Lindback was the first goaltender off the ice this morning, which means that he will more than likely be getting the start tonight against Buffalo. While Lindback was with the Syracuse Crunch during his conditioning stint, he put on some pretty amazing performances.
Despite everything that has been going on this week, this is an opportunity for the Bolts to get a fresh start. As far as I can see, the playoffs start tonight. What I mean by this is the Lightning need to treat every game between now and April like a must win game. This is the only sure fire way that we will be able to fight our way back to the top and find ourselves in the post season.
What do you think are going to be the keys to the game tonight? Are you excited to see Stamkos back in the lineup? Are you anxious to see Callahan’s Lightning debut? Let us know what you think in the comments below.