TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning will wrap up their homestand Tuesday night when the Los Angeles Kings make a rare visit to the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
The Kings have not played in Tampa since Nov. 14, 2009. Only San Jose has currently gone longer without visiting Tampa Bay. The Kings are in the middle of a season-long six-game cross-country road trip which has not begun well. L.A. has dropped their past two decisions, losing 1-0 in St. Louis and 2-1 against Carolina on Saturday night.
Tuesday night, the Lightning complete a stretch that had them at home -- where they are 15-7-2 -- for seven of their past nine games. They arrived limping, in the throes of a season-long seven game losing streak, but have turned that around and have captured 13 of a possible 14 points since. The run has put Tampa Bay back in the Stanley Cup Playoff hunt, currently 10 points out of the final post-season spot.
For Lightning coach Guy Boucher, it’s a matter of the team jelling at the right time.
“To see the effort from the players at all positions means there is a team chemistry; a team vision and cohesion,” Boucher said. “That’s what you’re after the entire year. Sometimes it takes more time than others but that’s what we have right now.”
But why did it take the Lightning 51 games to reach this point? Boucher points to several factors, but mostly attributes misplaced expectations and loss of focus as the culprits.
“The reality is, it often happens that a player that has some success the previous year comes in thinking they’ll take their game to a way other level,” Boucher said. “The expectations are not in the right place. It took a long time for us as individuals and a team to get the right expectations. That, and the injuries and away games early in the season. But to battle through that and get to where we are now was the whole point. It just took time.”
Dwayne Roloson gets the nod and will start Tuesday night for Tampa Bay. It will be Roloson’s first start since the All-Star break, when he made 33 saves to beat Phoenix Jan 21. Mathieu Garon has started the past four games.
“I knew I wanted to get Roli in soon enough after the break,” Boucher said. “He played well last game he played so I wanted to find a way to get him back in, but at the same time, Garon was doing well.”
The prospect of facing L.A.’s goaltender Jonathan Quick and his 22 wins and 1.91 goals against average is no concern to Boucher at all.
“Pavelec, Tim Thomas, we’ve been meeting them all;” Boucher said. “One great goalie or another great goalie, to me, it’s the same approach.”
Steven Stamkos, the NHL’s leading goal scorer, echoed Boucher’s thoughts about facing Quick.
“We don’t get to see Quick that often, but we pretty much have the same plan against any goalie; the basics,” Stamkos said. “Try to get traffic in front and put lots of pucks on the net and hope for the best.”
The “best” would be heading out on the road with another win, but Stamkos, who turned 22 Tuesday and was drenched in shaving cream in an on-ice celebration, knows that won’t come easily.
“These guys are a very good defensive team,” Stamkos said. “They play a lot of low-scoring games. They’re physical and they’re fast, so we have to play our best defensive game today because these guys don’t give up a lot and they can capitalize on chances. We know the importance of this one.”
Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jarret Stoll
Kyle Clifford - Andrei Loktionov - Trevor Lewis
Brad Richardson - Colin Fraser - Trent Hunter
Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Jack Johnson
Alec Martinez - Matt Greene
Tom Pyatt - Vincent Lecavalier - Martin St. Louis
Steve Downie - Martin St. Louis - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Shannon - Dominic Moore - Nate Thompson
JT Wyman - Brett Connolly
Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Brett Clark - Pavel Kubina
Brendan Mikkelson - Bruno Gervais