It was a pretty uneventful morning at the St. Pete Times Forum as the Lightning prepared for tonight’s game against the Boston Bruins. It is the final home game for the Bolts before the Olympic break and the Lightning need to finish strong. The Bruins are coming off two consecutive wins and are now just two points behind the Lightning for the eighth and final playoff position. After tonight Tampa Bay will head to New York for back-to-back games against two more teams chasing them in the standings, the Islanders (seven points behind) and the Rangers (four points behind). Needless to say, this stretch of “playoff type” games continues. The Bolts need to keep the pedal to the metal knowing that there is an extended break right around the corner (for most guys anyway).
Head Coach Rick Tocchet didn’t need to say it this morning, as everyone knows he will ride the hot hand in Antero Niittymaki tonight in goal. Niittymaki is 7-0-1 in his previous eight games with a 1.09 goals-against average. Even better is the fact that he has not allowed more than two goals in a game during the stretch. The rest of the roster will remain the same with Brandon Bochenski being the odd-man out. Keep an eye on Steven Stamkos, who is currently riding a career-high 10-game point streak with eight goals and 16 points.
The Lightning have won four consecutive games for the first time since November of 2007, when they also rode a hot goaltender to five straight wins. That goaltender was none other than Johan Holmqvist. The Bolts are also 10-1-2 in their previous 13 games at the St. Pete Times Forum and are tied for the least number of goals allowed in the NHL at home this season with 59.
Hopefully all these factors will allow Tampa Bay to extend their streak tonight. Get to the game early tonight as the Lightning will honor Olympians Niittymaki (Finland), Andrej Meszaros (Slovakia), Mattias Ohlund (Sweden) and Ryan Malone (United States) shortly after the warm up.
The team will practice tomorrow at the St. Pete Times Forum before heading to New York. Luckily the blizzard is expected to have past and shouldn’t affect the Lightning’s travel plans.