The Lightning seem to be finding themselves in a familiar situation with each game that comes up on the schedule. Again tonight, the Bolts will take to the ice in a proverbial "four point game" tonight against the Montreal Canadiens at the Times Forum. Tampa Bay has responded to the tests recently with consecutive home wins against Atlanta and Toronto.
With Montreal sitting three points ahead of the Lightning in the Eastern Conference standings, the Bolts can really help their cause tonight. The importance of getting on a roll heading into the break is something that is not lost on the team's head coach.
"The next three weeks are huge," Rick Tocchet said. "If you have a bad three weeks you could be out of it. Our attitude has to be do-or-die. We need to leave it all on the ice."
Looking at the schedule, the Bolts will play six of their 10 remaining games leading into the Olympic break at home including tonight's match-up with Montreal. Of those 10 games, the Lightning will play six against opponents who are currently three points or less ahead of them in the standings.
Antero Niittymaki gets the nod in between the pipes for the Lightning tonight. Mike Smith has been taken off the IR, but Tocchet has elected to ride the hot hand after Niittymaki has posted a 2-0-0 record with a 1.39 goals-against average and a .950 save percentage in his previous two games. Smith will return to the bench as the back-up tonight.
Tocchet said Todd Fedoruk and Stephane Veilleux will sit out tonight. Veilleux has sat out at practice this week with a lower body injury suffered on Saturday, and while he is cleared to play medically, Tocchet would like to give him a little more time to rest.
Yesterday the Lightning assigned defenseman David Hale to Norfolk on a conditioning assignment. Tocchet said Hale wanted to go down and that it will allow him to stay sharp.
Remember tonight's game starts at 7 p.m. due to national broadcast on TSN and RDS in Canada.