TAMPA, FL - The Tampa Bay Lightning need a win and a regulation Carolina Hurricanes loss to clinch their first postseason berth in four years. Despite the tumultous last month and the way the Bolts have played lately, that is an accomplishment that should not be overlooked. Pending an epic collapse, this first year owner, GM, and coach, will be taking Tampa Bay back to the playoffs.
Tonight the final stretch to that ultimate goal begins with the final matchup against the Ottawa Senators. The Senators have been a thorn in the side of many playoff teams lately as they have gotten hot down the stretch and relished in the spoiler role, including two victories over the Lightning this month. In the four games with Ottawa the Lightning are 1-1-1.
The Lightning may get forward Ryan Malone back on the ice as he has been cleared to play by head coach Guy Boucher, but he will still be a game time decision as the doctors have the final say on his return. Malone has been out over a month with an abdominal injury and his physical presence has been missed, particuarlly by Steven Stamkos who has struggled mightly recently, not registering a point in six straight games.
Goalie Dwayne Roloson will start for the Bolts, despite Mike Smith's strong outing Saturday night against the Hurricanes. Boucher gave many of the players, including Marty St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, and Stamkos, an extra day off this Monday in hopes of recharging their batteries for the final stretch.