The Lightning returned to Tampa at about 2 a.m. on Monday following their 4-2 victory against the Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum. They had a quick practice yesterday at the St. Pete Times Forum before heading home to be with their families after being gone for 12 days and six games. Tonight’s match-up with the Flyers opens a five-game holiday home stand and the players are excited to be back playing in front of their home fans.
Mike Smith will get the start in goal tonight after a solid 36-save performance against the Islanders. Matt Walker will miss his second consecutive game with a lower body injury suffered in St. Louis. James Wright will be the other scratch, missing the first game of his NHL career. Head Coach Rick Tocchet said Wright needed to take a step back from his game, saying that he tends to work too feverishly when on the ice and wearing himself out. Tocchet is suggesting he slow it down a bit and pace himself. That should be easier than trying to ramp it up.
In the stat of the day department, Wes Walz really has the Lightning penalty killing humming. Even during the first four games of the previous road trip, when the team was 0-3-1, the Bolts did not relinquish a power play goal. Even more amazing is the fact that in the previous nine games the Lightning have killed 36 of 40 chances against (90.0%), take out the St. Louis game (the only one in which they allowed more than one power play goal) and they have killed off 33 of 35 (94.3%). Not too shabby.
Don’t look now, but this was surprising to me when I noticed it today. The Lightning’s current two-game winning streak ties their season high, which has happened two other times. It is their longest road winning streak this season.
If you’re going to the game tonight don’t forget to stop by section 112 and see the players’ wives and girlfriends. They will be raffling off personally decorated and autographed holiday ornaments.