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This Week's Lightning Action: Go Way, Way West (And North), Young Men

Contrary to the attitude held by teams in most sports, a long road trip far away can be a good thing for a hockey team. The prevailing wisdom being that time spent away from the comfort and distractions of familiar surroundings allows the team to focus on the task at hand of playing hockey and allows them to work on things that need attention. In that case, this week's trip tothe far flung reaches of western Canada could be just what's needed for a couple of players whose play is crucial to how far the Lightning go this season.

To say that goaltenders Dan Ellis and Mike Smith have not put up impressive numbers so far this season would be a mighty understatement. Smith ranks 64th of 67 goalies with a save percentage of .872 while Ellis ranks 60th with .882. Ellis's goals against average is 3.15, 57th in the NHL and Smith is 62nd with a 3.57 GAA. Statistically, they're the worst goalie tandem in the NHL. That's simply not good enough to reach the playoffs, let alone advance, in spite of the Bolts standing (currently 15-9-3, 2nd, Southeast Division) which has them in the middle of a four-team knot occupying 5th through 8th place in the Eastern Conference standings.

With help coming from outside an unlikely proposition (prospect Cedric Desjardins is in Norfolk but not considered ready to make the jump to the NHL and the Lightning are reluctant to part with one of their talented skaters, which would be necessary to make a trade), the Lightning are relying on Ellis and Smith to raise their levels of play. Here's hoping they find time during the long road trip to do that.

First up this week for the Lightning is a game against the Calgary Flames (11-14-2, 5th, Northwest Division. The Lightning then head to Edmonton for a game against the Oilers (10-12-4, 4th, Northwest Division) on Friday. They conclude the trip on Saturday with a game against the Vancouver Canucks (14-8-3, 1st, Northwest Division).

Photographs by cstreet.us, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.