The Tampa Bay Lightning return to the friendly confines of Amalie Arena for one night only. The Bolts will take on the New York Rangers in a nationally televised game before heading back out for a four-game swing that takes the Lightning to Carolina, Boston, Detroit, and the New York Islanders.
The Lightning is coming off a six-game road trip where they went 3-3, played some good hockey at times, and played some of their worst hockey of the season.
The trip could have been worse for the Bolts as they started 1-3, losing three consecutive games for the first time this season. But this team bounced back with two good wins against Vancouver and Seattle to end the trip on a good note.
Jon Cooper was impressed with how the team responded the last two games. “I like the way these games have played out. In both games, we had the lead going into the third, and we just shut the other team down. That’s back to the way we need to play.”
Despite the two wins, the special teams’ play is of concern. The Lightning spent way too much in the penalty box this trip, and it cost them games in Winnipeg and Edmonton. The Lightning was penalized 26 times on the road trip allowing four goals.
That seems respectable, but it’s hard to generate a consistent offensive attack when you’re short a man and you are down a goal or two.
The Lightning also went 14 power-play attempts without a goal during the trip before netting two power-play goals in Seattle by Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman.
The Lightning has not played well against playoff-caliber teams this season, so these next five games will be an excellent test to see how this team will measure up playing quality teams every game, which they will do in the playoffs.
The Rangers are in third place in the Metro Division, two points behind the Penguins. The Lightning are winless against the Rangers this season going 0-1-1. On January second, the Lightning was shut out in New York 4-0, the last time these two teams met.
This should be a great matchup between the two Russian goalies Andrei Vasilveskiy and the Rangers, Igor Shestyorkin. Shestyorkin has 29 wins for the Rangers, a 2.07 goals-against average.
Since it is a nationally televised game tonight, the puck drop is a little after 8 PM instead of the usual 7 PM. The game will be televised on ABC.