Philadelphia Flyers (25-12-9, 59 pts) at Tampa Bay Lightning (17-22-10, 44 pts)
St. Pete Times Forum - 7:30 PM EST - St. Petersburg, FL
TV: CW57 (HD?), Sun Sports
Radio: 610 WIP, XM 206
Check Here for Internet Streams
Behind Enemy Lines: Boltsmag, BoltsBlog
What To Watch For: Tonight's game, although it's against one of the Eastern Conference's worst teams, comes at a crucial time for the Flyers. Coming off of a loss against Florida on Tuesday night, and with New Jersey seemingly unable to lose, and the Flyers staring a daunting home-and-home with Boston right in the face, they need points. Tonight is a key opportunity to do so against a Lightning team that's had it's fair share of turmoil this season.
But just because they've been the joke of the NHL doesn't mean they're complete pushovers. They're 6-3 in their last nine with wins over Montreal, Buffalo, and the Flyers. That January 15th loss in Tampa is one the Flyers will be trying to avenge this evening.
Martin Biron started that game on the 15th, but Antero Niittymaki will go for the Flyers this evening. Thank God for that, because if you ask me, Marty hasn't been all that stellar lately and his numbers tell the tale. He hasn't won a game since January 10th against Toronto.
Tampa played last night and lost to Carolina, 3-2.
Injury Report: Darroll Powe has missed practice the past two days with the flu, so he might be limited tonight. Other than that, it's the usuals for the Flyers... Briere, Hatcher, Kalinski, and Gratton all out.
Tampa is hurting. Gary Roberts is out with an elbow injury, Marek Malik is sidelined with an ankle problem, and Jamie Heward has a concussion.
Between The Pipes: As mentioned, Niittymaki will go for the Flyers tonight. He's yet to lose in regulation in 2009. For Tampa it'll be Mike Smith, and if he were on a better team he'd probably be a Vezina candidate. This guy is that good. He has a .919 save percentage and a 2.53 GAA in 40 games this season for the Lightning.
Questions To Answer
1. Can the Flyers stop taking so many damn penalties?
2. Do the Flyers realize the urgency of this game?
3. They should be Tampa. Do they play like they are the better team?
4. The Flyers have always struggled playing in the St. Pete Forum. Is it psychological?
Playoff Chase: There's only one other game on the schedule tonight that means anything to us, and that's Pittsburgh at New Jersey. The Devils are on a tear -- seven straight wins, while Pitt is coming off of a big win against the Rangers on Wednesday. A Penguins win could put them tied with Florida for the eighth-spot, but the Panthers still have games in hand. We're gonna have to cheer for the Pens tonight, as much as it hurts.
A Flyers win and a Jersey loss would put Philadelphia back within four points of the Devils with two games in hand. It would also put the Flyers just one point back of the Rangers with still two games over them. A Devils win and a Flyers loss could be very bad... the Flyers would be eight points back of first place with only those two games in hand.
A bigger game tonight than we may have expected, so let's hope the team is ready. Go Flyers.