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Game 44, Preview and Open Thread: Tampa Bay Lightning at Philadelphia Flyers

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#12 Tampa Bay Lightning (16-16-10, 42 pts) at #9 Philadelphia Flyers (21-19-3, 45 pts)
Wachovia Center - 7:00 PM ET - Philadelphia, PA
TV: CSN Philly HD
Radio: 610 WIP (internet stream), XM 208
This is the open game thread.
Get Tampa reaction at Raw Charge

The Tampa Bay Lightning come into town on the second half of a back to back. Well, kind of.

They suited up last night to play the New Jersey Devils and played about a period and a half, taking a 3-0 lead. But 44 seconds after Steven Stamkos made the game 3-0, the lights at Prudential Center went dark. With no announcement from the team, the crowd sat around wondering what was going on for two hours before the NHL finally determined that the game couldn't go on and that they'd have to postpone it.

So aside from the Devils doing a terrible job keeping fans on top of the situation, the Lightning are in a bit of a peculiar spot. On one hand, they're half way through one game, and they'll pick off where they left off in that game at a later date. According to the Bergen Record, the game will be completed tomorrow night at 6 PM. That means that in the middle of one game, Tampa will travel 90 miles south, play another game against the Flyers tonight, and then make the return trip to finish off Friday's game. Bizarre.

That brings us to tonight's contest. The Flyers are flying high (man, that's such a bad pun) after a 7-4 rout of the Penguins and they certainly seem like they're starting to turn a corner. When we look back on this season, we may be able to look at the Penguins win as a turning point of the season; the night where the team proved their turn around wasn't inflated by weak opposition.

But the current 6-1-1 run began in Tampa back on December 23, and with two strong wins in two games against the Lightning this season, they seem to be the perfect team to continue winning ways against. Don't be fooled by the 3-0 mark the Bolts put on New Jersey a night ago, too. Mike Smith was dazzling, stopping 20 shots in just over 30 minutes as the Devils out shot Tampa Bay 20-7.

After that work load, Smith will be on the bench tonight. Antero Niittymaki will be between the Tampa pipes. Niitty played in relief of Smith back on November 2 and played admirably after the Flyers put five pucks behind Smith. Tonight will be Niitty's first career start against the Flyers.

Opposing him will be Michael Leighton, making his billionth straight start. Ray Emery could have come back tonight but Peter Laviolette decided to be smart about the situation, instead sending him to the Phantoms for a conditioning stint. Leighton has been red hot of late, and even though he allowed four goals on Thursday night, he still was a major factor in the Philadelphia victory.

The Flyers offense is as hot as it's been all season and maybe even beyond. They've scored 17 goals in three games and they've chased the opposing goaltender in three of their last five games. Meanwhile, Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis have picked their seasons out of the doldrums and they're no red hot. Lecavalier has 13 points in his last 10 while St. Louis has 11 points in his last eight games.

Tampa can climb to within a point of the ninth-place Flyers with a victory tonight. Meanwhile, with a Flyers win and a Montreal loss to the Devils, the orange and black will be back in playoff position by the end of the night.

After the jump, questions to answer and our in-game open thread.

Questions To Answer

  1. Do the odd circumstances surrounding the Lightning tonight effect them at all?
  2. Can the Flyers potent offense keep it going? Can they chase another goaltender?
  3. The special teams were great against Pittsburgh. The Bolts aren't a good special teams club. Formula for success?
  4. What's the reaction like when Antero Niittymaki is introduced at the Wach?
  5. How many people are actually in the building tonight with the Eagles kicking off the playoffs just an hour after puck drop?

Tonight's game will be broadcast locally on CSN Philly in high definition. Listen with the local guys at 610 WIP, and as always, join us here for the conversation if you're not out watching the Birds light up the 'Boys. I'll be at the game tonight. Go Eagles, and LET'S GO FLYERS!