Two games left in the regular season. Four possible points to be had against teams that are each looking to accomplish something. The Tampa Bay Lightning, this evening’s opponent is looking for a win to get to 100 points in a season for the second time in their history. The last time they hit 100 in the regular season was their Stanley Cup year back in 2004.
Looking for some momentum heading into the playoffs the Lightning are also aiming for fourth place in the Eastern Conference…an outside chance of making that since they are three points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins, but it is something to shoot for. Steven Stamkos leads the team in goals with 44, but is scoreless in his last three games. Florida is usually the prefect cure for something like that. Meanwhile, Simon Gagne is tearing things up after a season long funk. 16 points in his last 11 games for Gagne who happens to be in the last year of his contract. Waking up? Or playing for next year, Tampa will need his production to stay at this pace in the post season.
Martin St. Louis a candidate for the Lady Byng Trophy has been hot as well with 10 points in his past seven games, and usually plays very well against the Panthers. Ryan Malone who had missed 21 games with an abdominal injury is back in the lineup providing a physical presence that will be invaluable come playoff time.
The part of the game that could be Tampa’s downfall is their defence. The pickup of Eric Brewer has certainly bolstered the group, they still don’t seem to be quick enough on the back end, and as for goaltending…..as good as Dwayne Roloson has been lately, he is 41. Mike Smith, who played as though he was Marty Brodeur with a shutout against the Hawks last week is the backup.
The Florida Panthers on the other hand don’t have much going for them right now. Injuries to players like Stephen Weiss, Steve Bernier, and a concussion to Ryan Carter will make for an interesting lineup this weekend. Look for Patrick Rissmiller and Tim Kennedy to fill a couple of the spots. Offensively the Panthers will be challenged again as they have been outscored 28-13 during this horrendous nine game losing streak, as they fight to stay out of the basement of the Eastern Conference.
Scott Clemmensen starts tonight with Tomas Vokoun getting the call at home for the finale tomorrow. I sincerely hope that is NOT the last time we see Vokoun. As for Clemmensen, you can argue that as of late his play has been erratic, but you can also say that the defence of the team, all around has been spotty to horrible at time times. The awareness and zone coverage has been lacking. Vokoun had mentioned this a few weeks ago, and I would have to say he knows what he’s talking about.
David Booth, the team nominee for the Masterton Trophy has 23 goals, and just because, win or lose, I’d love to see him finish at 25. Mike Santorelli who has been in a bit of a slump sits at 19, so surely getting 20 would be nice as well. I’m not sold on the play of Sergei Samsonov though. While he impressed early on, he’s played inconsistently overall. It’s a contract year for him, and while I would be the first to tell you that he is very talented, if a contract is going to be offered, no more than one year please. And not a penny over 2 million, which is more than I’d offer myself, but…..
The final two games may or may not tell us too much about who will be here or not next season. The roster will be shook up, and whether it’s trades or free agency, we all know we have needs. The needs pretty much have been the same for a long time. so grab your flashlights those of you in the basement. Go down there and find us some goal scorer’s. As well as a way to stop the streak!
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