The Lightning will get back at it tonight when they take on the Atlanta Thrashers at the St. Pete Times Forum at 7:30 p.m. There is no downplaying the importance of the game tonight. The Thrashers currently hold the eighth and final playoff position with 66 points, just three ahead of the Lightning’s 63. Not to look past tonight, but Tampa Bay’s next two games are huge as after tonight they will head to the Bell Centre in Montreal to take on the Canadiens, who are also three points ahead of the Bolts. So if there was ever a time to break this five-game losing streak its now.
That leads me to this: 16-0-0. That is Antero Niittymaki’s career record against the Thrashers, so it comes as no surprise that he will get the start in goal tonight. Niittymaki has repeatedly said this season that he doesn’t really think about the opponent and there really isn’t an explanation, but there is something going on there. Here’s hoping his success against them continues tonight. The Lightning also recalled forward Paul Szczechura from Norfolk today after he cleared waivers and he is expected to be on the ice tonight. He brings a good defensive game from his position and can also take face offs. Brandon Bochenski is also expected to be in the line up tonight after sitting out the previous three. On the back end it looks like Matt Walker is ready to return from his lower body injury so that should bolster the blue line a bit.
Teddy Purcell, acquired at the trade deadline, impressed people in his Lightning debut on Thursday. Line-mate Vinny Lecavalier said after the game he thought Purcell had a good game and he looks forward to playing with him more. Tocchet echoed that sentiment this morning. He said he has been impressed with Purcell’s shot and speed. Tocchet even went as far to say that he is planning on using him on the second power play unit. The coach feels Purcell has a great skill set for working the half wall. When he was acquired Purcell said he was excited to get a little more playing time and responsibility than he was getting in Los Angeles. Now he’s going to get it, so let’s see what he can do with it.
Remember tonight’s game is a CW44 High Voltage Saturday Night and the came can be found on CW44 at 7:30 p.m.
Tomorrow the Lightning will practice at the Times Forum.