Hopefully this is as bad as it gets for the Lightning – that is losing, which has become common this month and being beset by numerous injuries and illnesses that have taken the spark out of the team that we all saw go 7-2-1 in the opening month of the season.
Illnesses and injuries along with a 1-4-1 record for November has Coach Guy Boucher shaking his head wondering how he can replace three of his top six forwards and yet keep the team up for what begins their toughest stretch of the season following today’s game when they play 15 of their next 21 games on the road.
The Lightning (8-6-2) will try for their second win of the month when they host the Minnesota Wild in a late afternoon, early evening contest at the St. Pete Times Forum on Sunday. The Bolts lone victory of the month came via a 4-0 shutout pitched by Dan Ellis over the Toronto Maple Leafs last Tuesday, but the Bolts followed that win with consecutive road losses on Thursday against the Washington Capitals (6-3) and on Friday against the Pittsburgh Penguins (5-1).
This is the only meeting of the season between the two clubs, with the Bolts having won 3 of the last 6 meetings against the Wild. The Bolts won the lone contest last season, also at the St. Pete Times Forum, on Steven Stamkos’ goal in the shootout, which came after Ryan Malone tied the game with just 14 seconds left in regulation. That triumph ended a three-game winning streak in the series for Minnesota, which is 3-2-0 with a tie in six all-time trips to Tampa.
In their loss to the Penguins on Friday, the Bolts were held to a season low 16 shots on goal and they went just 1-for-8 on the power-play. Steven Stamkos scored the lone goal, his 15th of the season and his league-leading 7th power-play goal. Mike Smith turned aside 15 of the 20 shots in the losing effort.
The game was also the first one without Captain Vincent Lecavalier, who a day earlier sustained a non-displaced fracture of a knuckle on his right hand. At the time reports were that he would miss 3 to 4 weeks, but earlier today the Lightning announced that Lecavalier will undergo surgery on Monday (press release below).
Along with Lecavalier, Steve Downie missed his third consecutive game with a back injury and is questionable for today’s matchup. Dana Tyrell was a gametime scratch due to the flu and Simon Gagne still remained out with a strained neck, though he has begun skating. To help plug the holes, Marc-Anthony Pouliot and Johan Harju were recalled from Norfolk and made their Lightning debuts against the Penguins.
Minnesota (7-6-2) comes into Tampa Bay on a two-game losing streak having lost to the Atlanta Flames on Thursday 5-1 in Atlanta and then dropping a 2-1 decision on Friday night to the Florida Panthers in South Florida. Cal Clutterbuck netted the only goal for the Wild, while Jose Theodore stopped 25-of-27 shots in defeat. The loss also marked the first time the Wild had lost consecutive games in regulation all season.
The Wild comes in 1st on the power play (27.7%) with the Lightning coming in 6th (22.5%) and the Lightning hold an edge in penalty killing (2nd, 89.9%) while the Wild are 6th at 87.5%. Steven Stamkos and Matt Cullen come in as the NHL’s top 2 men on the power play, with 12 and 11 points respectively.
While today’s Bolts line combinations aren’t known, Coach Guy Boucher announced that Dan Ellis will get the start in goal for the Bolts. Ellis is 2-1-1 in his last 4 home starts with a 1.85 GAA and a .932 SV% and is also 3-1-1 with a 1.66 GAA and 2 shutouts in his last 5. The Bolts have also collected points in three out of four games at home in which Ellis has played… career wise against the Wild; he’s 2-3-0 with a 3.39 GAA and 1 shutout.
Niklas Backstrom is expected to be back in net for the Wild this evening. He is 2-0-1 with a 1.58 GAA and a .943 save-percentage and 1 shutout against the Bolts at the Forum. Overall he’s 3-0-1 with a 1.68 GAA in four career starts. Backstrom has only two regulation losses on the road against Southeast Division opponents in his career, giving him a 5-2-3 mark overall.
Lightning Nutz and Boltz
Steven Stamkos now has 4 goals during his current 4-game point streak. Stamkos has 15 goals this season, making him the franchise record holder as the only Lightning player in team history to have that many goals through the 1st 16 games of the season.
Tampa Bay is tied with Washington for the fewest regulation home losses in the East with 1 and ranks 6th in the NHL with just 17 goals allowed at home this season.
Mike Smith and Dan Ellis come in with an active shutout streak of 210:00 in which they have not allowed a power-play goal. The Bolts have held the opposition without a goal with the man advantage in each of its last 3 games, with the last opposing power-play coming at 10:00 of the 2nd period on 10/21 against the Islanders.
The Lightning has scored 3,598 goals since the team’s inaugural season in 1992-93. The 2nd goal tonight scored by the Lightning would reach the milestone of 3,600 goals scored in franchise history.
Martin St. Louis is riding a four-game point streak with five points in that span.
Adam Hall skated in 23 games with Minnesota in 2006-07 and Dominic Moore appeared in 40 games with the Wild in parts of two seasons (2006-08).
The Wild has picked up points in four of the five games it has played this season after suffering a loss in regulation (2-1-2).
Matt Cullenranks tied for 2nd in the NHL in power play scoring with 11 points (3-8-11) as of 11/13. He sits one point behind the Bolts Steven Stamkos (7-5-12).
Cal Clutterbuckrecorded his fifth goal of the season in Friday’s loss to the Panthers, tying Brent Burnsfor the team lead. He also ranks first in the NHL with 71 hits as of 11/13. Clutterbuck has led the league in hits each of the past two seasons.
The Wild is 23-12-6 against the Eastern Conference since the beginning of the 2008-09 season.
Brent Burns has been suspended for two games, without pay, for careless use of his stick in an incident with Florida Panthers’ player Steve Bernier at the conclusion of Friday’s game. Burns co-leads all NHL defensemen with five goals on the season.
Lightning: Steve Downie (Back, questionable for today’s game), Simon Gagne (Neck; IR), Vincent Lecavalier (Broken Hand; out 3-4 weeks), Mattias Ritola (Upper-body; ear, questionable for today’s game) and Dana Tyrell (Flu; questionable for today’s game)
Wild: Guillaume Latendresse (Lower-body; groin), Chuck Kobasew (Lower-body; groin), Pierre-Marc Bouchard (Upper-body; concussion) and Josh Harding (lower-body; knee)
Lightning Upcoming Games
11/17/2010 @ New York Islanders – 7:00 PM SUN (HD)
11/18/2010 @ Philadelphia Flyers – 7:00 PM SUN (HD) NHLN-US (HD)
11/20/2010 @ Buffalo Sabres – 7:30 PM SUN (HD)
Here is the official press release on Lecavalier:
LIGHTNING’S LECAVALIER TO HAVE HAND SURGERY
Tampa Bay Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier will undergo surgery on Monday, November 15 to expedite the healing process of a non-displaced fracture in his right hand, the club announced today.
The surgery will be performed by Dr. Tom Graham of the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.
The team’s original report that Lecavalier should be able to return to action in 3-4 weeks has not changed.
For more info: Tampa Bay Lightning, Minnesota Wild
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