TAMPA -- With their playoff hopes hanging by a thread, the Tampa Bay Lightning hope the Boston Bruins haven't brought along the scissors.
The Lightning face off Tuesday night against Boston at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the second game in a crucial seven-game homestand. Tampa Bay, 0-2-1 over their its three and seven points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, may finally see the writing on the wall.
"We are trying to groom our players, not just for this year but for the next few years," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "Look at the last two games, like in Washington where we lost in overtime, we were short-staffed and we had a kid from the AHL in net (Dustin Tokarski) and our players basically shut down the opponent for two periods. We gave them almost nothing.
"Same thing here last game against Carolina, same thing, giving very little to the opponent. That tells me there is a real dedication to improving and getting better in all aspects of the game. It's a very honest approach by our players towards not just hard work but attention to details and it has to stay this way."
Until the mathematics completely turn against the Lightning, Boucher will continue to urge his troops to battle, but he also knows he can't keep throwing his top line on the ice for 27 minutes, which is what Steven Stamkos played last game against Carolina, or 29 minutes, which was Martin St. Louis' ice time for that same game.
"We have to score more goals, and yes, we've got some guys who are not here offensively, but some other guys have stepped up and scored some goals lately," Boucher said. "We've been playing Marty St. Louis and Stamkos too much, but we had to. We can't keep this up until the end of the year. They can't play that many minutes. I have to rely on some other guys. Our top line has been asked to do a lot, and they've been on the ice a lot. Obviously, they are out of gas by the end of the game. I have to manage it in such a way that they do have enough gas to play 60 minutes.
"There is a delicate balance. We have to play them a lot but there is a point where I can't go overboard. In Carolina, on the power play, they stayed on the ice for the full two minutes. Usually after a minute I'm screaming at them to get off but I didn't, because we had no choice."
This will be the third of four meetings between the Lightning and the Bruins this season. The home team has won each of the last two games, and Tampa Bay's win on Jan. 17 proved to be a turnaround game for the club. The 4-1 victory halted a seven-game losing streak and began the five-game winning streak that propelled the Lightning back into playoff contention.
Boston is playing game two tonight of a stretch in which they play six of seven games on the road. The Bruins are 2-2-0 in their last four games and their power play has struggled of late, going 1 for 22 over their last eight games.
Marty Turco gets the call in net for the Bruins, his first start since rejoining the NHL on March 5. He relieved Tim Thomas for two periods on Sunday against Pittsburgh, allowing 2 goals while facing 22 shots.
Here's how the lineups project for tonight's game:
Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Tyler Seguin
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Jordan Caron
Daniel Paille - Chris Kelly - Brian Rolston
Lane MacDermid - Gregory Campbell - Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara - Johnny Boychuk
Dennis Seidenberg - Joe Corvo
Andrew Ference - Adam McQuaid
Martin St. Louis - Steven Stamkos - Teddy Purcell
Ryan Malone - Tom Pyatt - Brett Connolly
Tim Wallace - Adam Hall - Nate Thompson
Ryan Shannon - JT Wyman
Eric Brewer - Victor Hedman
Brett Clark - Mike Commodore
Brendan Mikkelson - Brian Lee