Here we go. The Lightning’s sprint to the playoffs starts tonight. A week and a half, as well as silver and bronze medals, is behind the players. Now they must buckle down and be ready for the grind that will ensue the rest of the season. Because of the Olympics there really aren’t too many breathers the rest of the way. The opponents aren’t going to make it easier either. If you look at Tampa Bay’s remaining schedule they would be well served to come out hot and keep it going all the way until April 11 and hopefully beyond.
Still on the schedule are two match-ups at division-leading Washington and others on the road against Montreal, Boston, Pittsburgh and Buffalo to name a few. All those teams will also be battling for playoff positioning. The Bolts will also host Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Washington, the Rangers, and Ottawa in the final stretch, to name a few. The best scenario now is for the team to get hot and go on a run. That starts with tonight’s game against the Flyers.
Antero Niittymaki, fresh off his bronze medal, will get the start in net. Even though he didn’t get into any game action in Vancouver, he was still practicing with Team Finland so he should not be rusty at all. Despite the break the Lightning are still dealing with some injuries. Matt Walker is dealing with a lower body injury and will not be able to go tonight. Walker said the break is good for some parts of the body, but harder on others. He expects to be back on the ice for practice tomorrow. Matt Smaby will get the call in his place. It also sounds like Zenon Konopka, who was also fighting off a lower body injury, will be able to go tonight. Brandon Bochenski cleared waivers today and was recalled from Norfolk. Rick Tocchet said he will be a game time decision.
There are some great things going on off the ice at the Times Forum tonight as well. Don’t miss out on some of the great promotions going on tonight surrounding “Go Green Night”. Ride your bike and receive a free ticket to the game or bring something to be shredded by Pro Shred or six aluminum cans and/or plastic bottles to be recycled to the plaza and receive a lower level ticket for $30 or an upper level ticket for $10.
Ryan Malone (United States - Silver) and Antero Niittymaki (Finland – Bronze) have been gracious enough to allow their medals to be displayed on the concourse tonight at the Lightning Foundation table behind section 120. Make sure you swing by and check them out. The Lightning Foundation will also be auctioning off autographed Olympic jerseys.
Tomorrow may be a busy day for the Lightning. They will practice at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum and then head to the airport to head to Washington, all while the NHL Trade Deadline hits at 3 p.m.