The Blues open a quick 2-game road trip tonight in Tampa, and might be feeling a little guilty when they hit the ice. They outright stole a point at the last minute (OK, last 3:10 if you're picky) to force overtime, and stole the second point inside of the first 2 minutes of that extra session. Tonight's match up is in a different venue, so you can't say we're returning "to the scene of the crime", but we are definitely facing the witnesses to the said theft. No doubt that the Bolts will be looking for a little redemption, if not outright revenge.
The Lightning out-skated and out-played the Blues during that game, and I'd expect an attempt at more of the same tonight. They are at home now, and can match up against our lines even better; our return to our primary lineup will have to be equal to that challenge. Expect a lot of speed plays from these guys. The Lightning have had this game circled on the calender since that loss; the waiting for this moment is finally over. Thankfully, we won't see these guys again after tonight (unless it's the Cup final, but let's not get ahead of ourselves).
The Tampa squad is facing a particularly rough part of their schedule. Since that last game against the Blues, they went on to play Dallas, LA, Anaheim and Nashville, and now face us again. After tonight, they hit the road for the West coast and face all 3 California teams, and then the Yotes and Avs. There's been no breakdown so far; they remain the top team in the Eastern Conference with a record of 34-16-6. More importantly, while they are barely a .500 team on the road (12-11-5), they have been absolutely dominant at home: 22-5-1. They've won 6 of the last 10, and surely want to get a little back at the expense of the Blues.
Somehow, the Blues eked out a win, despite only getting 2 shots on goal in the first period, and 5 more in the third (one of those being the tying goal). If the Blues take a period off tonight, they will likely find themselves free fallin'. Thankfully, the forwards corps is back to being healthy(ish). Jori Lehtera is back and the STL Line is learning to fly again. That also restores the Berglund - Stastny - Jaskin line as well.
The Bolts are led by Steven Stamkos, the scoring machine that we now know is also willing to throw down, even with the likes of David Backes. I don't know where that came from, but I know I'll take that trade-off all day long. Whatever secret that Cap'n Dave has to get under Stammer's skin, I hope he's able to deploy that again. That was amazing. Surprisingly, Stamkos doesn't lead the team in points - that would be Tyler Johnson with 19 goals, 34 assists for 53 points. Next is Stamkos with 50 points on 28 goals (team best) and 22 assists. There are scoring threats all up and down the line. and Brenden Morrow too. The only difference to expect in the Tampa lineup is that Cedric Paquette was injured at a recent practice, so Vladislav Namestnikov has been called up.
The Blues have already announced Brian Elliott as the starting goaltender. I'd expect Ben Bishop in goal for the Lightning. Big Ben came within 3 minutes of a shutout last time - I'm sure he'll be even more motivated tonight. You got lucky last time, Blues... now you've made Ben mad.
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Final Verse: East coast time, so another early start. The puck drops at 6:30 PM St Louis time, and our own GameDay Thread will drop shortly beforehand. The TV broadcast is on Fox Sports MW (and the NHL Network, it looks like), and the radio call will be on KMOX 1120 AM. Please do join us for the GDT. Bring beer. Hopefully, the Lightning won't be skating circles around the Blues...