The Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers first played one another about two and a half weeks ago at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. While expected to be close, the Lightning had little trouble dispatching their cross-state rival, winning by a final score of 5-2. Granted, this came when Tampa Bay was red-hot, and their offense was averaging close to six goals per game.
Now the Lightning, losers of six straight, travel to South Florida looking for a spark of any kind. Meanwhile, the Panthers have been alternating winning and losing streaks all season. Basically, neither team can find a way to win lately.
Another factor that might play into things would be each teams road versus home record. This season, the Lightning are winless on the road. The Panthers, on the other hand, sport a record of 2-2-2 at the BB&T Center. If this statistic means anything, Florida should have the edge.
Of course, this one game could change everything. If the Lightning’s slumping offense comes back to life, they may once again be tough to beat. For example, the big three of Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier could put more pucks in the net. Their lack of production isn’t the only reason the team’s badly stumbling, but it’s definitely one of them.
Anders Lindback is expected to start in net for Tampa Bay, though that decision could be based on how he feels following tomorrow’s morning skate. He missed Thursday night’s game versus the Washington Capitals with the flu, but head coach Guy Boucher said he was feeling better in his comments after this morning’s practice. Look for Jose Theodore to be in goal for the Panthers, though it wouldn’t be totally surprising to see Scott Clemmensen get the nod given Theodore’s last outing against the Lightning.
Look for Ryan Malone to miss this game for the Lightning, as he’s currently on injured reserve with a lower body injury.
Tune in to this game on Fox Sports Florida (if you’re in South Florida), Sun Sports (from the Tampa Bay area northward) and NHL Network tomorrow afternoon at 3 p.m. Eastern, noon Pacific.