My apologies for the late posting hockey fans, I spent the weekend getting ready for a skating class that started Monday at the university and as I finish this I am getting ready for some more time on the ice later today (it’s good to be back on the ice and it’s even better to get back to my writing!) Anyway, I hope you all had a happy and pleasant New Year’s Eve and Day! Now I’ll get back to why you are at this site, the Tampa Bay Lightning and hockey!
When I last posted, our team was hours away from playing their division rival the Atlanta Thrashers. The Lightning won that game 4-3. They then went on to win against the Boston Bruins on the 28th of December and tied the Montreal Canadiens in regulation (however they went on to lose in OT). Then on Saturday, the Lightning went on to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1! They are doing well at re-energizing their game and making the playoffs a serious possibility! Their next game is today in Buffalo against the Sabres!
Right now, the Lightning (16-15-10) is in 3rd place in their division. They have 42 points, the same as the Atlanta Thrashers (18-17-6). They are also in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, right behind the 9th place Thrashers. As forward Zenon Kenopka recently stated, “We’re not there yet just because we won a few games. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s starting to change in the right direction.”
So what is in store for the Lightning in Buffalo? The Sabres (23-11-4) are in 2nd place in the Eastern Conference and they are in first place in the Northeast Division. This is the second time this season and the last time, if you will recall, ended with shoot out win for the Sabres. And if you will also recall the only reason it went to overtime was because Drew Stafford scored extremely late in the third to tie the game. He scored extremely extremely late. His goal came with at 19:43 in the period. But back to the present, to a team that just beat the defending Stanley Cup champs. Right now, the Sabres are also on a 5 game winning streak. Hopefully the Lightning will be able to take the same effort and talent that they used in their October match up against the Sabres, mix it with how well they played against the Penguins on Saturday, and come up with another one for the W column!
The Lightning has several players on the injured list. These players are: Todd Fedoruk with a lower-body injury; Jeff Halpern with a lower-body injury; Matt Walker with a lower-body injury. But, Matt Walker is expected to return today for the game. However, Paul Ranger will be missing the game due to personal reasons and Alex Tanguay was not at practice on Monday due to intestinal issues.
This is a critical game for both teams! The Lightning know this and they realize where the team was recently and what the games over the last few weeks have done to change that (they have won 5 of their last 7 games). To paraphrase Kenopka, there is still room for improvement on the team though, and they are not yet where the ultimately need to be. However they are back on the right track and tonight will be a good game of hockey, especially if the Lightning are able to keep up the momentum that they’ve gained.