We're only halfway into the NHL season, but the Tampa Bay Lightning (17-20-4, 38 points) are a sunk ship. They are third to last in the Eastern Conference, which puts Bolts fans in an awkward spot. With the team's playoff hopes all but nil, each win becomes bittersweet. While it's impossible not to root for your favorite team, each win also moves the Lightning higher up the standings and gets them a worse draft pick next season.
Tonight's game against the Carolina Hurricanes is a perfect example of this dilemma. The Hurricanes (14-23-7, 35 points) are one of the few teams behind the Lightning in the standings, and if they were to win tonight, it'd put them one point behind the Bolts. And if the Lightning win, it'd further increase their lead over the Hurricanes, and potentially vault them over the Montreal Canadiens in the Conference standings.
To look at it another way...it's a win-win situation, right? No matter what happens, Bolts fans can take away something positive from tonight's game. Or, at least, I'm going to keep telling myself that.
The Lightning and Hurricanes both played each other just a few weeks ago, and the Lightning pulled out a convincing 5-2 win. But the shot distribution for the game was rather equal, suggesting that the two teams were more evenly matched than the score suggested. Both teams control the puck around 48% of the time on average, so tonight should be a fun, close contest.
Where: Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
When: 7:30pm EST
Coverage: Sun Sports, 970 WFLA
For more on this game, drop by SB Nation's blog on the Lightning, Raw Charge.