Expect a tough game tonight for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Coming off a 4-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday, the Bolts will play host to the formidable Chicago Blackhawks, ranked 4th in the league, tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum. The Blackhawks (8-2-2) have done well for themselves in this first month of the season and plan on adding a fourth to their three-game winning streak after coming off a 3-2 shootout win at Florida on Thursday. The 2010 Stanley Cup champions look like their setting themselves for another run for the cup.
It's a good thing for the Lightning that the only time they will have to face the Blackhawks this season won't be on the road. The Bolts' struggles on the road (2-4-2) have put them at the top of the lower third of the NHL point rankings. The Lighting's performance at home offers hope though (3-1-0). "We love to be home. The energy is great," Lightning Head Coach Guy Boucher said of the St. Pete Times Forum. However, the Blackhawks won't as much lose this game as the Lighting will have to win it. The pressure is on for the Lightning to dig out their fourth consecutive home win to add it to their previous three.
The Bolts will have to dig pretty far though. With 36 goals, Chicago is the 5th most scoring team in the NHL. Match that up with a Lightning defense that has been inconsistent for the entire start of the season (including a third period lapse that sealed Carolina's victory on Tuesday night) and this game might get squirrelly. Chicago's power-kill is superb with a 91.9 percent kill-rate, the third-best in the NHL. This doesn't bode well for Tampa's 15.8 percent power-play conversion rate, the 21st in the NHL. The Lightning will need to focus on 5-on-5 to convert. However, they need not be afraid of drawing a few penalties. As formidable as Chicago's 5-on-5 offense may be, their 8.7 percent power-play conversion is the second worst in the entire league (poor St. Louis's singing the Blues).
The one thing the Lightning can't do tonight is be lazy. The Bolts that we've seen thus far is a lackadaisical team that coasts through the first two-thirds of a game and finally wakes up in the third just in time to watch themselves loose. "Except for the third period, we didn't earn anything," Boucher said of his Bolts after Tuesday's game. There is no doubt that the Tampa Bay Lightning has the skill to take down the Chicago Blackhawks. But do they have the heart?
Players to Watch
-Steven Stamkos (C): The 21 year old Stamkos leads the Lightning with 6 goals scored. His six game streak of receiving points (for goals and assists) was broken in Carolina. Let's see if he picks it back up tonight. He ties forwards Martin St. Louis (R) and Teddy Purcell (R) for total points, with 10 points each. Team Captain Vincent Lecavalier (C) has 9 points.
-Marc-Andre Bergeron (D): Defenseman Bergeron's 13 points makes him team leader. Expect him to be a presence at tonight's game.
- Marion Hossa (R): Hossa leads the Blackhawks in goals scored. He had three points agains Nashville. He has 11 points for the Blackhawks.
-Patrick Kane (C): Kane leads the Blackhawks in points with 12 points. He had three points against Nashville.
7:30 Easter Standard
TV: Sun Sports (USA)