PUCK DROP: 6:30pm Central
TV/RADIO: CSN, WGN Radio
CRASH BEFORE MY EYES: Raw Charge
The Hawks return to the scene of the latest crime, where they took Games 1 and 5 of last season’s Final. This would have been circled on the Bolts’ calendar before the season even started. It’s doubly so with this being the two hottest teams in the league, as Tampa has won six in a row to match the back half of the Hawks’ 12-gamer. It had been something of a train wreck of a season for the Lightning until this streak. But the winning hasn’t stopped the drama.
Almost no one is talking about the Lightning’s streak because yesterday Jonathan Drouin went on hunger strike from the mouths of decadence, or in this case Steve Yzerman. Drouin and his agent Allan Walsh have basically pulled their last card in trying to force a trade by simply going home, and Yzerman and the Bolts have obliged by suspending him indefinitely for not showing up for Syracuse. All eyes are on what will happen next, for a player that hasn’t reached 100 games in the NHL yet. But he’s still a former #3 overall pick, and there are 29 other teams that have probably at least kicked the tires on him.
This also has completely buried the story that Steven Stamkos hasn’t signed yet, and it looks less and less likely that he’s going to. This win-streak has made it even harder for Yzerman to cash in on him at the deadline, but can he really afford to lose him for nothing or whatever draft pick he can wrangle at the draft for a team to get a head start on signing him? Especially when everyone feels he’s going to Toronto anyway? So much drama in the T.B.C, it’s kind hard bein’ Steve Y-Z-E…
As for on the ice. the Bolts are being led by Ben Bishop who is putting up another Vezina finalist season. THE BISHOP! is at 1.97 GAA and .927 SV% for the season, and in four January starts he’s rocking a .948 save-percentage. Up front Nikita Kucherov has eight points in his last five games, and Stamkos has six.
Other than Kucherov, it hasn’t been quite the same season for the Triplets. Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat have been banged up, and only have 28 points combined. The top line did a little better when they got Ryan Callahan’s dead ass off of it and promoted Kucherov.
On the back end, it’s still Hedman and the Pips, with Anton Stralman being the biggest pip. Those are the only two who can move at any sort of pace that might cause a breeze and drive possession accordingly. But John Cooper in his infinite wisdom plays them together, meaning there’s one Lightning team when they’re out there and another when they’re not that would be best described as “ya-ha time.” It took Cooper only five games to figure this one out in last year’s series.
For the Hawks, Richard Panik forgot to set the alarm this morning so he’s being punished by not dressing tonight. The Hawks will dress all seven d-men, so won’t that be fun? When they put Scuderi out for a shift at forward I sincerely urge you to not have any food or drink in your mouth for it might end up on your TV screen. But maybe that’s better than a Rozie-Scuds pairing that the quick Lightning forwards would scorch (get it?). Crawford gets the square.
The Lightning were going to be pumped for this one either way, which means they’ll play at a pretty high pace as they are wont to do. Hedman will be running wild and the Hawks didn’t much like the look of that last spring. But when the other two pairings for the Lightning get out there, the Hawks should enjoy themselves because they simply can’t keep up. However, both goalies are capable of stealing the game no matter how it’s going. This one could be just about anything.