The Tampa Bay Lightning will begin the second half of the season with a road game in Denver Thursday night against the Colorado Avalanche.
The Lightning is currently 30-10-6, three points behind Florida in the Atlantic Division.
The Avalanche has the best record in the Western Conference at 32-8-4 and is one of the hottest teams in the NHL. The Avalanche average just over four goals a game, so the Lightning will need to be at the top of their game defensively to help slow down the Colorado offensive attack.
The Lightning were busy off the ice this week, as well as they inked Pat Maroon to a two-year contract extension worth an average of one million dollars per season.
Maroon is in his third season with the Lightning and played a big part in helping the Lightning win the last two Stanley Cups.
The Lightning wanted to keep Maroon in Tampa, and Maroon desired to stay with the Lightning. Maroon and his family love the area and had no desire to go somewhere else. Maroon has become a fan favorite during his tenure here in Tampa and made it known to his agent he wanted to stay in Tampa.
“I called my agent and said, Hey, I want to stay in Tampa. I knew it was going to be tight, (with the cap money), but Julien BriseBois and Jon Cooper found a way to bring me back for a few more years. I’m really looking forward to it. Me and my family love it here in Tampa. The organization has been nothing but good to us. Coop does a really good job of providing that winning mentality. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be than here.”
Jon Cooper talked about what Maroon brought to this Lightning team. “He brought a winning pedigree with him here. To come out of a Stanley Cup year and walk into our room, he was one of the guys that helped identify some of the things we needed to do to win. He’s done everything we’ve asked of him. I don’t think you can ever have enough guys that win. Patty’s earned this. He grew up in St. Louis, but I think he’s found a home here in Tampa.”
Maroon will be in his usual spot in the lineup on the third line when the play the Colorado Avalanche. The Bolts and the Lightning met earlier this season in October, with the Avalanche getting a 4-3 shootout win in Tampa.
It will be a homecoming for Lightning forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who played the last two seasons with the Avalanche.
Coach Jon Cooper said he was pleased with the team’s efforts in practice following All-Star weekend. “There was a jump in everybody’s step. They seemed a little refreshed and, not that I didn’t have high expectations for practice, but I was hoping for what I saw. It was good. Guys were buzzing.”
The Lightning will be without Zach Bogosian and Erik Cernak, who are still out with lower-body injuries. The Bolts recalled defensemen Darren Raddysh from Syracuse, and he is expected to be in the lineup on Thursday night.
Avalanche center and playmaker Nathan MacKinnon is also out for the game with a broken nose.
The Lightning will travel to Arizona after the game Thursday and play the Coyotes on Friday night.