Coming off a tough shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators and three consecutive off days, the New Jersey Devils will face-off against the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Here’s a closer look at tonight’s game:
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning started the 2013 campaign hot and led the NHL in scoring for a number of weeks. However, they haven’t been able to string together wins. Their 29 points (14-18-1) currently put them at fourth in the Southeast Division and 13th in the Eastern Conference, 6 points out of a playoff spot.Their defense, which is 23rd in the league, really needs to pick it up as they make a push for the playoffs.
Offensively, the Bolts are led by Steven Stamkos. In 33 games this season, Stamkos has lit the lamp 23 times and has collected ten assists. The 23 year old from Markham, Ontario leads the league in goals scored and is third in points behind Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. Tampa’s defense is led by youngster Victor Hedman. Hedman leads all defense-man with 15 points (four goals and 11 assists) and has played in every game for the Lightning this season. Finally, I expect Mathieu Garon to get the start in net for the Bolts. Garon has gotten the start in three of the last four games, but has an overall record of 4-8-0.
New Jersey Devils
Someone call the doctor, or at least hire another one! Aside from being without Dainius Zubrus, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Henrik Tallinder, the Devils might be without Alexei Ponikarovsky, Stephen Gionta, and Bryce Salvador tonight. However, some reports say that all three will play tonight. Regardless, someone will have to step up. Travis Zajac and David Clarkson need to be more consistent on offense, while Peter Harrold and Mark Fayne need to play like veterans. Andy Greene can’t play 30 minutes every night!
Expect Martin Brodeur to get the start between the pipes tonight. Marty has been stellar since returning from injury with a 1.33 goals against average and a 2-0-1 record. Brodeur’s overall 2.08 goals against average is fifth best in the league. However, with a game tomorrow night against the Florida Panthers, Johan Hedberg will most likely see some action this weekend. I just don’t think that it will be tonight.
Tampa’s potent offense is always a threat, and the Devils’ have caught the injury bug. Be sure to tune in tonight for some Friday night hockey. The puck drops at 7:30 PM and you can catch the action in New Jersey markets on MSG Plus and WFAN (660 AM, 101.9 FM)
New Jersey Devils 5 Tampa Bay Lightning 3
Be sure to also check out David Garrison’s first look at tonight’s game here.