The Tampa Bay Lightning chartered a 3 p.m. flight to Sunrise this afternoon, but not before holding an approximate 90-minute practice at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Monday morning in preparation for tomorrow's game against the in-state rival Florida Panthers.
A few key takeaways:
Head coach Guy Boucher said goaltender Mathieu Garon, currently out with a lower body injury, "is good to go" but in need of more practices.
Therefore, Anders Lindback will get the start in goal tomorrow night for the Lightning against the Panthers, against whom he is 3-0-0 for his career with one shutout.
Garon had been skating this past week, and again skated Monday morning.
"I feel great," Garon said. "No limitations. I'm hoping to be back tomorrow."
With that said, Boucher expects Garon to back up Lindback Tuesday night in Sunrise.
A strength for the Bolts a year ago, the team's performance in one-goal games this season has been just the opposite.
Last season the Lightning went 25-3-8 in one-goal games, but is 1-9-1 this year.
Boucher said Monday that it's all about mental toughness, adding that in the third period of Saturday's game against the Canadiens, his team got nervous, thus resulting in surrendering a two-goal lead before falling 4-3 to Montreal.
He also touched on the rookies and new players on the team, having not been here last season to experience how to fight through such situations and turn those same third-period leads into wins.
"Half our team wasn't here last year and we got some guys who are rookies, and last year we built our confidence by winning those close ones. This season, honestly, I'm surprised. We're progressing, but we're losing those close games, so it's a mental thing."
BACK ON TRACK
With Tuesday's game against the Panthers crucial in terms of positioning in the standings, the Lightning cannot afford to endure another defeat, which on this occasion, would allow the Panthers to jump Tampa Bay in the standings, while the Lightning themselves would sink close to the bottom of the 30-team league.
Therefore, forward Tom Pyatt said, "it will be a good opportunity to win and get our confidence back."
Luckily, the Bolts have performed well over the past two seasons when playing games in Sunrise.
In the last meeting, Tampa Bay rallied back from a 5-3 deficit in the third period, only to tie the game in the final seconds of regulation, then win it in overtime. That game, as a matter of fact, snapped a six-game losing streak at the time.
Furthermore, since 2010-11, the Lightning have picked up points in six consecutive games down in South Florida.
"I'm hoping we can have a repeat performance," Pyatt said. "We can't be scared to lose anymore. That's what we talked about. We need to play a full 60 minutes and we need these points because there's not a lot of hockey left."