The Lightning (16-10-4, 3rd, Southeast Division) find themselves at home for three consecutive home games for the first time this season. Having just completed their western Canada road trip, which produced three points in three games, the Bolts find themselves currently occupying 8th place in the Eastern Conference.
The Eastern has become a conference of haves and have-nots, with nine points separating the No. 1 and No. 8 slots and seven points separating No. 8 from No. 9. More interesting to the Lightning is how tight the Southeast Division has become. The Washington Capitals have lost six straight games allowing the Lightning to creep within three points of the division lead. That's the good news. The bad news is the Atlanta Thrashers (17-11-3, 2nd, Southeast Division) have been red hot, winning 10 of their last 12 to overtake the Lightning in the division.
However, the Lightning have a chance to swap positions in the standings when they take on the Thrashers tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum. The Thrashers are led offensively by Dustin Byfuglien, who leads the team in points (32), goals (11) and assists (21). Ondrej Pavelec has emerged as the primary netminder, having overcome a scary incident, collapsing during the team's opening game against Washington and being taken off the ice on a stretcher.
The Lightning then get a couple of days off before hosting the Buffalo Sabres (12-14-4, 4th, Northeast Division) on Saturday. The Sabres have been right around .500 since a couple of extended losing streaks early in the season mired them near the bottom of the standings. They're 5-4-1 in their last 10 games, including a 2-1 loss to the Lightning in Buffalo on November 20th. Derek Roy leads the Sabres in points (29) and assists (20) while Ryan Miller, one of the NHL's best, is the No. 1 goalie.
NOTES: Discount vouchers that can be used for tonight's game against Atlanta or on the 20th vs Carolina can be obtained at the Sweetbay grocery stores, located at 4317 W. Gandy Blvd. and 2100 W. Swann Ave. in Tampa. All vouchers may be redeemed at the St. Pete Times Forum Box Office in exchange for a discounted Terrace Level ticket for just $10 to be used at either of the aforementioned games. The offer is valid while supplies last.
... Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier has been skating with the team during the last couple of practices and took shots during today's morning skate. He could be cleared to play tonight against Atlanta but that is unlikely ... Mattias Ritola and Dana Tyrell will be at in Tyrone Square Mall in St. Petersburg this Thursday from 6-7:30 p.m. to meet fans and sign autographs. Defenseman Victor Hedman will make a meet-and-greet appearance at West Coast PowerSports in Clearwater Friday, from 6 - 7 p.m. ... Lightning forward Steven Stamkos is currently third among all players receiving votes for the upcoming all-star game, trailing only Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Chicago's Jonathan Toews ... Saturday's game will be the Lightning's 12th annual "Kids Night Out". Patrons will be given the choice of five different pricing levels from which to choose. Each includes the opportunity to sponsor a designated number of kids to attend the game, as well as complimentary incentives for contributing. All tickets purchased towards the event will be donated to children through local non-profit organizations. All orders must be completed and submitted by Dec. 16, 2010. For further information contact Kelvin Woodson at (813) 301-6832. forwards