It's been a hell of a season so far for the Tampa Bay Lightning, who've seen a restructured organization show fast and favorable results so far. The Lightning currently lead their division, outpacing the Washington Capitals by four points and second only to the Flyers in the Eastern Conference. Not a bad matchup to get the post-ASG session started up.
As hot as the Flyers were going into the break, the Lightning were on their game too, winning five straight (albeit with three shootouts and not quite the opponents the Flyers were facing). Their sites are clearly set on the Flyers and first place, with a two-point swing on the line tonight.
The Flyers looked a lot better going into the All-Star break than they did the Christmas break, so hopefully the same will be true coming out. Their first game back from that little vacation was a beatdown at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks, which may come up in the locker room before tonight's game. Too bad we don't have some 24/7 cams in there...
In two previous contests against Tampa Bay this season, the Flyers have lost both, including that 8-7 pseudo All-Star Game in mid-November. Considering the Flyers have only lost 12 times in regulation, ya gotta think they'll be motivated to get one back here. Also, while the Flyers were a good club early on, they were still finding their way, especially in the first TB loss, which was just four games into the season.
One highlight for the Flyers in those two losses was the production from Nikolay Zherdev, who already has three goals against the Lightning this season. With JVR out of the lineup the two games before the break, Zherdev was skating with Jeff Carter and Claude Giroux, and the line looked amazing together. We're guessing he'll be alongside those guys again tonight, as a flu-ridden Jody Shelley will get a night off in favor of Dan Carcillo. God I love the firepower on this team. The Lightning have some as well, including one of the league's best in Steven Stamkos, but they're also giving up quite a few (22nd in the league), and their goal differential is even at zero. Only two teams with negative differentials are currently within the playoff bubble, and Tampa Bay's '0' jumps out of the column when looked at with the other division leaders.
Bob gets the start in net for the Flyers, and game time is 7:30.
The little All-Star Pageant was nice and all, but we're beyond ready to have some real hockey back in our lives.