With the opportunity to spend the night in Loveland, Colorado after last night’s shootout thriller with the Phoenix Coyotes, the Lightning players and staff found themselves a bit more rested this morning. The team hopped on a flight to Winnipeg, Manitoba this morning to prepare for tonight's game against the Edmonton Oilers at the MTS Centre. Welcome home Nigel Kirwan. Yes, Lightning video coach Nigel Kirwan is from Winnipeg, one of the coldest cities in North America. The team did not have a morning skate today, just a comfortable flight and a pregame nap, but its excited to play tonight in a building more suited to NHL hockey than some of the smaller “barns” it has played in over the past three days. The MTS Centre seats more than 15,000.
After having Stephane Veilleux playing with Vincent Lecavalier and Alex Tanguay to start the game last night against the Coyotes, Head Coach Rick Tocchet moved Steve Downie on to that line mid-way through the contest. Downie proved it was a smart move by the coach as he showed plenty of jump, brought some energy to that line and subsequently assisted on Lecavalier's goal in the game. As the Lightning look to find the right fit for that line it appears most of the reps have been going to Veilleux and Downie, so for now, at least, it seems to be a two horse race. Downie is slated to start the game with Lecavalier and Tanguay tonight so we'll have to wait and see what develops with that spot.
Also last night after the game, Martin St. Louis admitted that the Lightning’s top players need to show more urgency, even in the preseason. Clearly the alternate captain is focused on seeing his Lightning in top shape and form when the puck drops on the regular season. The Lightning were heavily outshot and outchanced in both games against the Coyotes, but knowing Marty, he will get the group going one way or another.
Tonight's line-up looks a lot like the one last night in Loveland with Lecavalier, Tanguay, Downie, Ryan Malone, Steven Stamkos, St. Louis, Veilleux, Mattias Ohlund, Victor Hedman, Kurtis Foster and Matt Walker all playing in their second game in two nights. Also playing tonight are James Wright, Jeff Halpern, Todd Fedoruk, Brett McLean, Drew Miller, Lukas Krajicek and Andrej Meszaros. Mike Smith, coming off a stellar start in Everett, will be between the pipes.
Don't forget Lightning fans that tonight's game can be seen at 8:30pm on the NHL Network and also listened to on 620 WDAE with Dave Mishkin calling the action. You can also visit tampabaylightning.com for twitter updates before, during, and after the game.