How will Lecavalier handle returning to face the Lightning?
Wednesday night’s game is sure to be an emotional one for Vinny Lecavalier.
After being bought out by Tampa Bay this past offseason, Lecavalier will play the team that drafted him with the first overall pick in 1998 for the first time in his 15 NHL seasons when the Flyers (10-11-2) take on the Lightning (15-8-1) at Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Puck drop is set for 7:30 p.m. (CSN). Here are five things you need to know for the game:
1. Vinny’s return
Prior to signing a five-year, $22.5 million contract with the Flyers, Lecavalier had played every single game of his NHL career with the Lightning.
Over 14 seasons, the 33-year-old piled up 383 goals, 491 assists and 746 penalty minutes for Tampa. He served as team captain two separate times and was instrumental in helping the Lightning win their first and only Stanley Cup championship in 2004.
So how is he approaching his return to Tampa?
“I am excited to go back,” Lecavalier said on Tuesday (see story). “It’s not something I have really thought of. I’m just happy to go back and play against them and hope to play a great game there. I’m excited to go back and see my old teammates and buddies and play hard against them.”
The Flyers, as we all know, got off to a rough start this season, but Lecavalier has been consistent in his first season in orange and black. Despite suffering two injuries in the early going, which cost him four games, Lecavalier enters Wednesday tied with Matt Read for the team-lead in goals with eight.
2. No Stamkos
Tampa’s record would indicate that the Lightning haven’t really missed Lecavalier this season. But right now, they probably wish they could have a center of his caliber in the lineup with Steven Stamkos out for the foreseeable future.
Stamkos remains sidelined indefinitely with a broken right tibia. The high-scoring centerman suffered the injury after he got tied up with Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton and crashed into Boston’s right post on Nov. 11.
It’s nearly impossible to replace the numbers that Stamkos is capable of putting up -- he had 14 goals and nine assists in 17 games before going down -- and the Lightning have struggled at times with him out of the lineup.
Over the last seven games, Tampa has gone 3-3-1 without Stamkos and has failed to score three goals or more in four of those contests. Players like Martin St. Louis and Valtteri Flippula will have to pick up the scoring slack if the Lightning want to remain toward the top of the Eastern Conference.
St. Louis passed Stamkos for the team lead in scoring (24 points) with a three-point performance in Tampa’s 5-0 win over the New York Rangers on Monday. Filppula had two helpers and currently ranks third on the Lightning with 18 points.
3. Bounce back
The Flyers are probably anxious to put their disappointing performance against the Florida Panthers behind them.
Entering Monday 6-0-1 in their last seven, the Flyers severely underestimated the lowly Panthers and missed an opportunity to grab two easy points in the standings.
Florida entered the game the second-worst club in the East but came away with a 3-1 victory. Poor execution, especially in the neutral zone, is what ultimately cost the Flyers.
“We were lackadaisical a little bit,” head coach Craig Berube said after the loss (see story).
The Flyers failed to do the little things that they had done so well during their seven-game point streak. If they want to come away with a victory against the Lightning, they’ll have to get back to slowing things down, winning battles along the boards and coveting the puck.
Stamkos, who has been walking without crutches for two days, isn’t the only key Lightning member with an injury. Defensemen Mattias Ohlund and Brian Lee are on injured reserve and also out indefinitely with knee ailments.
Forward Ryan Malone (lower body) and defenseman Radko Gudas (upper body) did not play against the Rangers but are listed as day-to-day. Forward Tom Pyatt (collarbone) returned to practice Saturday and defenseman Keith Aulie (upper body) participated in full-contact drills on Sunday.
The Flyers enter Wednesday a healthy bunch.
5. This and that
• Wednesday is the first of three meetings between these two clubs this season. The Lightning won two of three games against the Flyers in 2013.
• A pair of former Flyers led the team offensively against Tampa last year. Max Talbot had a goal and two assists in three games, and Tom Sesisto scored both markers in a 2-1 win on Feb. 5 at Wells Fargo Center.
• St. Louis has 19 points during the Lightning’s current 8-2-1 run against the Flyers.
• The Flyers have dropped four straight in Tampa by a 16-5 score.
• Lightning netminder Ben Bishop has won six straight starts at home. He’s allowed just nine goals in his last five games at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.