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At this point in the season, with the Lightning in their current rut, it’s tough to put a value on the importance of a game. Are we chasing a playoff spot, or is this season completely done? As I’ve voiced to many of you before, the onus lies on management to come out and update a fan base that is so curious. All Steve Yzerman has to do is come out and tell us that he isn’t planning to make the playoffs. While it isn’t the greatest outcome (having no Lightning hockey to watch in the spring was something I got far too used to after the cup), I would be content.

Up tomorrow (I suppose it’s actually tonight at this point), the Lightning will entertain the Carolina Hurricanes at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. This is the second of two games on this little home stand, and definitely the more winnable. After losing to the Vancouver Canucks despite a strong showing, the Lightning will look for two points to make it three of a possible four. So far this season, the Lightning have had a fair amount of success against the ‘Canes, winning two of three games so far. Last time these two teams met, the Bolts ended up winning 5-2. If that is any indication of what we should expect, this could be a night full of offensive power.

Tampa Bay Lightning: 17-20-4 for 38 Points
Carolina Hurricanes: 14-23-7 for 35 Points

Divisional games are always big but, as you can see above, this one is especially important. The Lightning are only three points up on their division rival, ‘Canes, and there is no way that our guys can allow that gap to shrink to a single point. Imagine, in a couple of days we could very well see the Bolts in last in the Southeast Division. There isn’t a person in hockey who expected that at the beginning of the season. That said, I’m getting a little ahead of myself here. The Lightning have games in hand, and a three point advantage. It’s not the most comfortable position to be in, but it will have to do.

The one saving grace the Lightning may get in this one is the Hurricanes’ dismal road record. Carolina only has four road wins this season which makes them last in the East for that category. Combine that with the Lightning’s strong play on home ice and we have a recipe for success. Of course, it’s typically this sort of game that leads to a letdown. Often teams will just come out flat against opponents that ‘should’ be beatable. With the position the Bolts currently hold in the standings, that sort of effort just can’t happen. Guy Boucher needs to motivate each and every single guy to go out there and play like every shift is his last. That’s the key to getting back into the playoff race. Sure, this team has lots of issues. Our defense is weak, our goaltending is weaker and we lack offensive depth. That said, each and every season you see a team that lacks talent but makes up for it in drive make the post-season. That’s the kind of storybook run this team needs to go on, starting now.

One guy to watch out for in tonight’s tilt is Steven Stamkos. I don’t typically do player profiles in my game previews, but this one is too important to ignore. On the season, Stammer has 17 goals through 17 home games. Those totals are stupidly impressive. Combine that with his hattrick the last time the Bolts played the ‘Canes and this could be a pretty big night for #91. Despite not having great career numbers against the aforementioned Hurricanes, I’m looking at Stamkos to have a HUGE night in the offensive categories. Really and truly, he is the leader of this team. He may not be the emotional leader, or the locker-room leader, but he is THE guy for this team. If he’s playing well and dominating, typically the team follows. Remember the days when Vinny used to be that exact guy? He would take over games and just will the team to victory. Now, it’s the Stammer show.

Dan Rosen, at NHL.com, published an article outlining ’12 Stories to Watch in the Second Half’. One of said stories was Stammer’s drive to 50 goals. To me, that’s not even a story. He is going to get 50 (barring health issues). The real story will be his drive to 60. Each and every day he just gets better and better. How many guys can say they’ve been on a streak of 13 goals in 12 games in this new NHL? 50 in 50? A guy can dream.

Considering his prowess for scoring goals at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, Stamkos has got to like the second half schedule that the Bolts have. With 25 home games, he should have every opportunity to play against weaker defensemen at key points in games. Fans, we could be in for a real treat. Even if the team fails to make the playoffs, at least we have the most exciting player in the game right here in our backyard. For a superstar, he doesn’t get enough publicity around the league.

Now, onto the second part of this blog. The Fourth Period has posted their version of Ek’s rumor chart for this year’s trade deadline. Due to the inclusion of a number of players whom they claim the Bolts have shown interest in, I thought I’d analyze each case.

Lubomir Visnovsky
With a cap hit of $5.6million, ‘Lubo’ isn’t a cheap asset to acquire. That said, Anaheim GM Bob Murray indicated that no player on his roster was untouchable except Selanne and Koivu. What would it take to acquire Visnovsky? He’s arguably one of the most underrated D-men in the game. He puts up big point totals, he moves the puck well and he’s not terrible defensively. He would be a big ticket item to put on our D core at the deadline, but with another year on his contract it could be worth it.

Josh Harding
Harding is in the final year of a deal that is paying him 750K. While that sounds all fine and dandy, he is scheduled to become a UFA this summer. He will be in for a HUGE payday. Despite not getting the press, Harding is one of the great goaltenders in the game under the age of 30. At 27, he still has a lot of good years ahead of him. If the Lightning can’t go out and get a really young guy like Bernier or Schneider, I think Harding would be a great option to move forward with.

Hal Gill
At 36, Gill’s best days are behind him. That said, he would be a welcome addition to quite a few D cores around the league. He isn’t the best skater, but he’s a heart and soul guy who can come in and really help a weak defense. If I were Steve Yzerman, I’d look at bringing Gill in only if the playoffs are still the goal. It would be unfair to the guy if he were just here to sit through a few months of mediocrity. That said, if the Lightning are in the right situation, Gill could be a really nice piece to add.

Evgeni Nabokov
Thanks, but no thanks! Evgeni Nabokov is exactly what this team doesn’t need right now. There is a potential situation that could arise where we could need a guy like him, but not right now. He is exactly what Roloson was for us last season, an older guy who can come in and play the playoffs for us. Right now, the Lightning aren’t even in the same time zone as the 8th playoff spot. That said, if we get back into the race, Nabokov could fit until the summer. We still need to get younger in net.

Well there you have my little rumor round-up and my pre-game report. Thanks for reading and enjoy your Thursday! Let’s hope for a Bolts win.

Follow me on Twitter: @michaelstuart93
Filed Under:   tampa   bay   lightning   carolina   hurricanes   rumor   preview  
January 12, 2012 6:17 AM ET | Delete
Boucher claimed the same lineup will be in tonight meaning Rolie is between the pipes. IF the Boltls play the same way they did against the Nucks they will come out up 6-4. Scoring 27 goals at home in the last 6 games is quite impressive, i see them keeping the momentum tonight. Only skeptical thing I'm worried about is Rolie keeping the softies out of the net and the D not colapsing, then again what else is new with my concerns
January 12, 2012 6:22 AM ET | Delete
Harding sounds to me like the most eco-friendly to me. Bernier and Schneider would be great but would cost a ton to get more them likely. I still can't believe the was Schneider saved that game the other night only wondering if he played for us where we would be in the standings. Until Ohlund decides to hang up the skates I can't see us getting Visnovsky. There really isn't that much room for him concidering the other needs for this team.
January 12, 2012 10:29 AM ET | Delete
With Bouchard injured in Minnasota, they may be looking for a winger. Purcell and a pick for Harding? And When was Vinny ever "that guy". He wasn't anything without Marty. Stamkos proved he can play with whoever, but Vinny needs Marty.
January 12, 2012 11:22 AM ET | Delete
Forget the playoffs. Sell. Sell Clark. Sell Bergeron. Sell Kubina. Sell Ohlund. Get younger..... Get bigger.... Get faster.... On DEFENSE. Then we can think about getting a goalie. Until then we re gonna be in for the same o same o. Theyre playing hard. Theyre playing well. But defense is absolutely horrible. Clarks puck moving is attrocious. Bergeron is a PP specialist. Yman isnt gonna declare the season lost but he knows we re not making the playoffs and we need to look to the future.
January 12, 2012 11:31 AM ET | Delete
I agree with all but 1 guy. I originally wanted Kubina used as shark chumb, but He has improved lately. I mean if he want an outrageous amount then toss him, however he has been more reliable lately. The rest need to go. We could get something decent for Bergeron, like Voynov from LA.
January 12, 2012 11:36 AM ET | Delete
January 12, 2012 11:49 AM ET | Delete
January 12, 2012 12:14 PM ET | Delete
I would make that Purcell and a pick for Harding trade anyday of the week. Keep Kubina and Brewer. Clarky is a good Dman in a different system, he's just not big and tough enough.
January 12, 2012 12:23 PM ET | Delete
You might do the trade but would they? Downie has been playing much better as of late and I think they may get more in return for him. Would it hurt, absolutely, but he has a tendency to hurt us more then help us because of his bad wrap with the reffing world.
January 12, 2012 12:36 PM ET | Delete
Yeah minnesota is not going to do that trade your right. We've got Purcell now for the remainder because of his lack of consistency.
January 12, 2012 12:44 PM ET | Delete
Vinny needs someone to play with on a line. Gagne was ok when he played, Tanguay was a bust, You have to go back to the Freddie Modin or Cory Stillman days for Vinny. What about Connelly up their? Carter Aston? maybe too early for both on a top line.
January 12, 2012 2:17 PM ET | Delete
I've often thought that Connolly could be a great fit with Vinny. Artyukhin, what I meant by "that guy" is the guy we look to for offense. There was a time I looked to Vinny for offense and great play.
January 12, 2012 2:33 PM ET | Delete
He was only him with Marty.
January 12, 2012 2:52 PM ET | Delete
Fair enough, suffice to see he's not the player he once was.
January 12, 2012 3:50 PM ET | Delete
Forgive my bluntness. I am a Lightning fan and I live in Florida, but I have a confession to make. I am Canadian. Born in BC, and a rabid hockey fan so if I get to annoying just tell me to shut the €£¥
January 12, 2012 4:15 PM ET | Delete
The FRUSTRATION HAS REACHED THE FANBASE! Nothing wrong with the passion. Sure Vinny is not what he was but neither are 1/2 the 30 year olds. When was the last time he had 15 goals before the allstar break? He hits 30 this year i'm happy. Is it worth 10 mil? NO WAY but that's not his fault when an idiot owner and GM offer you the money so they could just try to trade you later. I respect the man for what he put up with here.
January 12, 2012 6:20 PM ET | Delete
Artyukhin 76 your from BC thats cool man, I'm from Ontario and am a HUGE Bolts fan since the early days. Everyones comments here are good comments I love it. Michael keep up the good work!!!
January 12, 2012 6:29 PM ET | Delete
Artyukhin, born in BC also! I've loved the Lightning fo years. Your comments never get annoying. I really appreciate all you add to the discussion on every blog. Oomroy, he's not worth the money but he is putting up points which is nice to see. Thanks GoBolts!
January 12, 2012 7:22 PM ET | Delete
January 12, 2012 7:24 PM ET | Delete
I would go get Josh Harding and Mike Lundin but Yzerman has said he is not trading 1st or 2nd rounds picks question is what do you want to give up ? at what point do the Lightning become sellers ?
January 12, 2012 7:50 PM ET | Delete
Remember what I said about Kubina? Never-freaking-mind.
January 12, 2012 7:56 PM ET | Delete
Todd: I'll address that in my post-game blog tonight. Yzerman has to be willing to give up something to get something. He isn't going to have a great goaltender just fall into his lap.
January 12, 2012 8:03 PM ET | Delete
Were in BC?
January 12, 2012 8:17 PM ET | Delete
Pretty ridiculous if I say so myself
January 12, 2012 8:18 PM ET | Delete
Watching the game right now. Down 4-1 Kubina. Kubina. Kubina. Oh my! Like i said earlier. Its the same o same o. Sell. Sell. Sell.
January 12, 2012 8:56 PM ET | Delete
is it me or is it that it seems we overpass or we dont have finishers. Can we just shoot to the net?! Crash the net! Everybody else get the crazy bounce or carom but us we get too cute on the passing.
January 12, 2012 8:58 PM ET | Delete
Nah I know what you mean, gets frustrating sometimes.
January 12, 2012 9:30 PM ET | Delete
if you just watched the intermission you saw Dave said basically the same thing i said. The Lightning have problems moving the puck out of the zone. They dont crash the net enough and they need to finish.
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Blog Archive

01 Lightning News and Notes to Start December
02 Why Bolts Must Get Into Bobby Ryan Trade Discussions
02 Breaking News: Lightning Make Minor Trade with Panthers
03 10 Bold Predictions for Rangers vs. Lightning Game
04 Lightning Lose to Rangers: My Prediction Round Up
06 Simply Embarassing: Lightning Drop 5th Straight to Islanders
08 Lightning Beat Rangers to End Losing Streak - Mixed Bag
10 The 1-3-1 Returns: Flyers Take on Bolts at Wells Fargo
11 Lightning Fall to Flyers: The Slot Looks Like a Drive-Thru
12 From Bad to Worse + Lightning Sign Miettinen
14 Lightning Talk: Defensemen to Target in Free Agent Frenzy
14 Scenario
15 Bolts Squeeze By Flames Thanks to Dominant Second Period
17 Lightning Should Make a Push for Shea Weber
18 Bolts Down Blue Jackets + Rumor Round-Up
20 Why the Lightning WILL make the Playoffs This Season
22 Lightning Embarrassed by Sharks in San Jose: U-G-L-Y
22 Tampa Bay Lightning: I Want Your Opinions
23 Bolts vs. Avalanche: A Long-Winded Game Preview
24 Bolts Lose to Avalanche in Goalie Battle + Rumor Round-Up
25 Risky Business: Victor Hedman and Other Top-5 D-Men
26 Flyers vs. Bolts Shaping Up to be a Great Game -- Preview
27 Next 6 Games Vital for Lightning + My Predictions
27 Bryzgalov Shaky as Lightning Beat Up on Flyers
29 A Tale of Two Underperforming Teams: Bolts vs. Canadiens
29 A V for Vinny, a V for Victory: Bolts Down Habs 4-3
30 Bolts/Canes Preview + HB Hotstove Response + Rumor Update
31 Lightning Defeat 'Canes 5-2 on Phil Esposito Night