As a part of Bolt Prospects' midterm player evaluations, I will be live blogging this game while watching via the B2 Networks feed. Check this blog post between periods for updates.
Here's the big news tonight in pregame. Not only will Maxime Boisclair be making his AHL debut in this matchup but defenseman Andy Rogers will be returning to the lineup after missing two months due to injury. John Adams and Zdenek Blatny are healthy scratches and Justin Keller and Mike Egener (upper body injury) will be out due to injury.
1. HFD- Weller, (Ortmeyer, Korpikoski)
2. SPR- Kvapil, (Rogers, Jones)(PP)
3. HFD- Ortmeyer, (Degon)
That felt like a turning point to me.
Marc Denis stopped 16 of 18 shots faced for the win in a game where the Lightning outshot a very skilled and very fast Ottawa team 30-18. Impressive. Paul Ranger and Vincent Lecavalier each had 1 goal and 1 assist with the other Lightning goals coming from Martin St. Louis and Ruslan Fedotenko. Brad Richards added an individual helper.
Tonight felt like a turning point for the Lightning, in my opinion. The Lightning played an incredibly solid game against a team they traditionally struggle with more than any other club in the league. To hold a team as loaded as Ottawa to 18 shots is simply amazing, and with the exception of the Lightning's usual impotent power play performance they crossed every T and dotted every I in this game and all those details you address over the course of 60 minutes will inevitably add up to a win. It was 100% appropriate the game winning goal by Ranger came off a little thing like a faceoff win. This team has lost a slew of one goal games this season because they haven't managed the details this year. Tonight showed when they do, they can beat even their most formidable nemesis soundly.
In my opinion, this was a very critical game for both Ottawa and Tampa. Neither team is playing well right now and I had a feeling going into this one that the winner had a chance to springboard and get well positioned in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt while the loser could be reeling for at least another week or two. Fortunately, the Lightning put forth one of their best efforts and if they can knock off a talented by struggling Rangers squad on Saturday they can pull into Christmas at .500. That seemed impossible just a week ago. .500 on December 25th sets this team up nicely to break out strong once they get back to work.
By the way, if this team does break out after Christmas, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis will both be MVP candidates down the stretch of this season. They've been incredible this year and easily a couple of the best kept secrets in the league, if that's possible. 9 out of 10 games this season they've been the two best players on the ice not just for the Lightning but both teams on the rink. The only serious question to me isn't whether or not they're worthy of consideration to get the hardware, but rather which one is Batman and which one is Robin?
Ottawa 2:21, Dany Heatley 20 (power play) (Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza)
Tampa Bay 5:46, Martin St. Louis 23 (Vincent Lecavalier)
Ottawa 13:53, Antoine Vermette 13 (Patrick Eaves)
Tampa Bay 3:30, Ruslan Fedotenko 9 (Paul Ranger)
Tampa Bay 8:53, Paul Ranger 1 (Brad Richards)
Tampa Bay 19:07, Vincent Lecavalier 20 (empty net) (unassisted)
Game sheet from NHL.com.
Dimitri Kazionov was scoreless in Kazan's 6-2 win over Nizhnekamsk.
Evgeny Artyukhin scored Yaroslavl's only goal in their 1-1 tie with Cherepovets. Alexei Glukhov was scoreless in the match for Severstal. Artyukhin now has 3 goals and 10 points in 31 games this season. For comparison purposes, 2000 1st round pick Nikita Alexeev had 6 goals and 10 points in 40 games last season with Omsk in the Superleague.
Vasily Koshechkin dropped to 11-7-3 allowing 3 goals in Togliatti's 4-2 loss to CSKA. CSKA tacked on an empty net goal with 1:10 left in the third to seal the game.
Albert Vishnyakov was scoreless in Dynamo's 3-2 loss to Omsk.
Denis Kazionov was scoreless in Tver's 4-1 loss to Khimik. Kazionov will not be appearing for Russia at the upcoming U20 World Junior Championships.
Mike Mastovich reports in the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat that the Chiefs will likely be without several players this weekend. On top of Maxime Boisclair's recall to Springfield of the AHL, the team may also be missing goaltender Gerald Coleman who left late in the first period of last Saturday's game. According to Mastovich, Coleman suffered a groin strain which may be serious enough to keep him out of the lineup through Christmas. The diagnosis may actually be a relief to some Chiefs fans as speculation from those who attended the game focused on Coleman's knees.
The matter of Brady Greco does not have any such silver lining. The second year pro defenseman was arrested last Sunday and charged with several crimes after fleeing the scene of an autmobile accident. Greco, it turns out, did not have a license nor did he have any proof of insurance. The incident is not be the first in Greco's career as he also was charged with a DUI and was rumored to be in an incident in which he assaulted another student that led to his transfer from Michigan Tech after his freshman season in college. Greco is in the final year of his entry level contract and has already had two major shoulder surgeries since turning pro. Reemerging questions with his personal character will only dampen what already looked like a bleak outlook for his re-signing.