Most of the news in the sporting world this week has had very little to do with the actual playing of games. Unfortunately, what little we had from the field of play was a crushing Eagles defeat on Monday Night Football, wherein the only thing keeping the door from slamming shut on our hopes for meaningful football in the coming months were our now bloody fingers.
That finally changes tonight when, after a seemingly long layoff, the Flyers are back in action as they begin a road trip in Tampa. As opposed to some of the shitful teams they've played lately, the Lightning are actually pretty good despite currently sitting in the middle of the Southeast Division standings. After a terrible start to the season saw them winning just one of their first six contests, Tampa have put together a fairly impressive run of late.
Fortunately, the Flyers appear to have weathered the storm of being without their top defenseman, as Chris Pronger is expected back in the lineup tonight.
It's hard to know what to expect with Pronger. We figured he'd miss a few games to start the season, and when he was announced in the opening night lineup, the safe assumption was that his minutes would be limited. Up until taking a stick to the eye, Pronger was playing a pretty full share. His eye is said to be fine now, but it remains to be seen whether his conditioning will hold him back at all.
After returning from a broken hand—a completely age-independent injury—last season, Pronger developed troubles with his back. We can only hope that isn't the case this season, as the Flyers defense has looked lost at times without him.
They'll need to have it together tonight, facing one of the most dangerous scoring units in the league.
Months of largely baseless speculation that the Flyers might obtain the rights of Steven Stamkos this summer should be all you need to know how good he is, if you somehow haven't seen that with your own eyes. He's pocketed 10 goals in 14 games this season, sharing the Lightning points lead with distributing defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron at 15 apiece.
Of course, the Lightning attack also boasts the talents of Marty St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier, and Ryan Malone. There's quite a dropoff after Malone's 10 points in the TB production, with the next highest scorer having only 5, and Malone is currently out of the lineup with a UBI. They're still a very dangerous team with the puck though.
Through 14 games, it's been hard to find former Flyer Steve Downie's name in the box score, unless you scroll down to the penalty minutes. He's still 7 PIM behind Zac Rinaldo (49), but he may try to play catchup tonight. Of course, Rinaldo will keep his lead if the two throw down, which we're kinda hoping to see happen.
Goaltenders are expected to be Ilya Bryzgalov and Dwayne Roloson.
Photo: Marc DesRosiers-US Presswire