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Despite distance between two teams, many familiar faces to square off tonight

by Lightning Insider / Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning's stretch run to the Olympic break continues tonight when they play host to the Vancouver Canucks at the St. Pete Times Forum.  The Bolts are coming off a hard-fought, 2-1 overtime win against the Calgary Flames on Saturday. 

It was a good game in which Rick Tocchet said the Flames suffocated Tampa Bay through two periods, taking a 1-0 lead into the third period.  Tocchet commended the team for not playing what he called "river hockey" and staying with the game plan.  Sure enough the Bolts stayed the course and took the two points in the end.

It comes as a surprise to no one that Antero Niittymaki will get the start in goal again tonight.  Niittymaki was snubbed for the NHL's Three Stars of the Week, but received an honorable mention.  He is 6-0-1 in his previous seven games with a .963 save percentage and a 1.10 goals-against average.  Niittymaki also ranks eighth in the NHL in save percentage with .920.

"Goaltending has been a position of strength for us," Rick Tocchet said today. "Both guys have carried the ball at times, the down side is one guy doesn't get to play for a while.  Nitty has been playing great, he's a quiet goalie in the crease."

Tocchet also said the team's passing has gotten significantly better of late and he attributes that to better defensive zone coverage.  He said the Lightning were extremely sloppy for a while there but have cleaned it up recently.  Tocchet said he can normally tell how the team is going to play any given game by how the d-coverage is. 

The big star today was Mattias Ohlund, who will face his former team tonight for the first time.  He spent 11 seasons with the Canucks and really enjoyed catching up with his former mates this morning, which also included his countrymen Henrik and Daniel Sedin.

Speaking of reunions, former Lightning defenseman Shane O'Brien will make his return to the St. Pete Times Forum today.  O'Brien played in 96 games with Tampa Bay from 2006-09, including six playoff games in 2007.  Not making his first return, but a return non-the-less, is fellow defenseman Brad Lukowich who won the Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004. 

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