WHERE: Saint Pete Times Forum Tampa, Florida
WHEN: 7:30 PM EDT
Media Coverage: Sun Sports (cable), 620 WDAE (radio),
Last game: It hasn't been a desirable start to the 2011-2012 season for the Tampa Bay Lightning (1-2-2), who have lost four of their last five games (two in shootouts), including Saturday's 3-2 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers (2-1-0). After opening the season with five-straight games on the road, the Bolts are now looking to avenge the loss in front of an expected sellout crowd, for tonight's home opener at the newly-renovated Saint Pete Times Forum.
The match up: Tampa Bay's defense has had an unimpressive showing in the first five games and if they want a different result against the Panthers, this must remain the prime focus for them. The biggest questions coming into this season for the Lightning were on defense, and the questions remain after being grossly out shot by the Panthers during the bulk of the game on Saturday. Look for Tampa Bay to make some key adjustments on the blue-line in the second night of a home and home with the in-state rival Panthers.
Guy Boucher was prompted to make some adjustments on defense after the Lightning's embarrassing 5-1 loss to the Islanders, which exposed a lot of the blemishes on the Lightning's blue-line. Boucher shook things up and put defensemen Tom Pyatt and forward Blair Jones in the lineup for Saturday, but they will not be avaialble tonight, as they are listed as healthy scratches. That means thats forwards Teddy Purcell and Ryan Shannon will be in the lineup tonight. Purcell and Shannon were scratched in Saturday's game in Sunrise. Defensemen Matt Gilroy and Bruno Gervais will trade spots, putting Gilroy in the game tonight.
Boucher has stressed the importance of a team mentality, espcially on defense, by getting all players involved.The Lightning will also look to generate some more offense against the Panthers tonight, and if they do, look out for the real lightning that will come from addition of the tesla coils that have been installed inside the Forum. Sources are saying these might not be ready yet..but we will see.
The recent match ups between the Panthers and the Lightning have been neck and neck affairs, with five out of the last six games being decided after regulation. The Panthers have the advantage, having won four of the last five games that have gone past regulation, including taking three out of the last four shootouts from the Lightning.
The Lightning didn't score on any of its three shootout attempts on Saturday, and they are 0 for 5 on shootout attempts so far this season.
Tampa Bay has used both of its goaltenders this season and the Lightning's starting net-mider, Dwayne Roloson, struggled in his last start by allowing five goals on 18 shots in last week's 5-1 loss to the Islanders. Rolson has a unimpressive 4.34 goals against average and a .883 save percentage but he will get a chance to redeem himself tonight, as he gets the nod in the home opener.
For the Panthers, its looking like the off season acquisition of Theodore was a good one, even though it might be too early to tell. Theodore supposedly had a shaky training camp but is now playing solid, with a goals against average of 1.97, a .939 save percentage, and one shutout through three games. Florida coach Kevin Dineen has been cryptic about whether or not Theodore will start in net tonight but don't be surprised to see Jacob Markstrom between the pipes, to give Theodore rest before the match up against his former team in Washington on Tuesday. Dineen is "confident" in Markstrom, although Markstrom only has two periods of NHL experience on his NHL resume.
Prediction: Five of the last six meetings between these teams have been decided in overtime or a shootout and tonight's game will probably be another close one. The Lightning will most likely be playing with an extra spark, with the game being the home opener and all. Tampa Bay's offense could generate a few more goals than they have in their last few games but it will still be a close game. Final Score: Lightning 4 Panthers 3