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The Lightning will break out the white jerseys tonight as they entertain the surging Chicago Blackhawks – one of the “build through youth” success stories in the league these days. Chicago has a lot of weapons and goaltender Karri Ramo will face a strong test in goal tonight.
Lightning Interim Head Coach Rick Tocchet said tonight is a big game for Ramo, who needs to show what he can do after a rough outing in his last start at the Islanders.
One Blackhawk who won’t be a factor tonight is former Lightning goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who didn’t make the trip and is out with a groin injury. This is Chicago’s second trip to Tampa since Khabi led the Lightning to the Stanley Cup in 2004, and it’s the second time he won’t be a part of the action.
Tocchet is sending a message to Evgeny Artyukhin tonight, as the wing will be a healthy scratch along with (presumably) former Blackhawk David Koci.
“I think since his suspension he's been playing like he was playing at the beginning of the year,” Tocchet said of Artyukhin. “He's sleeping a little bit. He’ll get that big hit every once in awhile but he needs to just go play. Don't worry about the referees.”
Marek Malik has picked up another lower body injury and looks to be out, so young Ty Wishart has been brought back up to fill in on defense. The news doesn’t sound great regarding defenseman Paul Ranger, with Tocchet hinting this morning that his return might not be imminent.
“There are some decisions to be made there,” Tocchet said. “Do we continue on this path or shut him down and get him fixed up? He's a young guy.”
Andrej Meszaros also remains out and isn’t skating, though goaltender Mike Smith was on the ice for the second day in a row, taking part in a light skate sans goaltender equipment.