The Tampa Bay Lightning (31-30-7) may be effectively out of the playoff race, but they still have plenty of important games left on their schedule. The Lightning have a chance to play the role of spoilers down the stretch, making playoff-bound teams fight for every single point, and they could be an annoying challenge for the Boston Bruins (40-25-3) tonight.
The Bruins are currently sitting in first place in the Northeast Division, but their lead is tenuous; the Ottawa Senators are in second place, only two points behind the Bruins, so every game is important for them. If they want to hold onto their top seed, the Bruins will need to put on a strong showing over the remainder of the season.
Meanwhile, the Lightning have lost their starting goalie (Mathieu Garon) to an injury, and have been forced to rely on a rookie goalkeeper to give them a fighting chance at winning games. Dustin Tokarski has done an admirable job thus far, and although he's still a mere 22 years old, he's posted a 2.95 GAA and .895 Save% during his first two NHL starts. He will face a tough challenge tonight in the Bruins, though.
Lightning coach Guy Boucher has been forced to ride many of his top players hard recently due to injuries, and the extended ice time is beginning to have its toll. Victor Hedman hasn't been as dominant no defense recently as he was earlier in the season, and Steven Stamkos has been taking time off from practice in order to save himself for games. Will they have enough in the tank against the Bruins tonight, or will they get mowed down like so many other teams?
Game time: 7:30pm EST
Location: Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, FL
Media: Sun Sports, NESN
For more on the Tampa Bay Lightning, check out SB Nation's blog on the Bolts, Raw Charge.