After back-to-back games in which they earned three of a possible four points, the Lightning are looking to keep the positive momentum flowing when they get back on the ice tonight. The players hit the ice for the morning skate especially early today, some as many as 20 minutes. The team certainly seems ready to go for the game against the Avalanche.
Antero Niittymaki will be between the pipes after Mike Smith started the previous two games. Nitty has been good at home this season with just one loss and there is no reason he shouldn't continue that play tonight.
In other big news, Mattias Ohlund will make his return to the Lightning line-up after missing seven games with a lower body injury. Getting Ohlund back brings a lot back to the team as he brings solid play, eats up a ton of minutes and brings that veteran presence. Rick Tocchet said this morning that the log jam the Lightning have on the blue line is a good thing as it creates more competition. Ohlund being back certainly contributes to that.
Also on the blue line, Mike Lundin was reassigned to Norfolk today while Matt Smaby was recalled from his conditioning assignment. Lundin did a good job while with the team and showcased some great skating ability.
The Lightning power play has been clicking of late, converting in seven consecutive games, including 10 of the past 11. Tocchet said having two effective units creates some healthy competition since among the 10 players getting PP time. He also said he likes having Martin St. Louis on the point because he can play a full two minutes, make smart decisions and distribute the puck well among his teammates.
Jeff Halpern, now playing on a line with Vincent Lecavalier, is really enjoying his time with the captain. Having Halpern on his wing has really upped Lecavalier's game. Halpern is good in the corners and great defensively while also having the ability to take draws should Lecavalier get kicked out of the circle at a key time. Tocchet called him the perfect "safety valve" for that line.
After the game tonight the team will practice tomorrow before heading to Boston to take on the Bruins on Wednesday.