The 'Bolts are in town tonight for their only contest against the Flames this season (7:30 PM MT, Sportsnet West) boasting the two-man wrecking crew of Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos, who have scored a combined 74 points and accounted for over a quarter of their team's 84 goals so far this season. Stamkos, currently sitting second in the NHL in scoring with 21 goals and 40 points, and is on pace for a whopping 63 goal, 120 point season, has cooled off a bit recently with just two assists in his past five games, but that's bound to happen when you've been shooting 21%. Every player has lulls over the course of a season, the percentages have to even themselves out one way or another and he'll undoubtably bounce back.
What's most impressive about the twenty-year old's follow up to his 51-goal season in 2009-10 is the fact that he's putting up some good numbers playing against pretty tough competition, ranking fourth amongst regular Tampa forwards in terms of QualComp. He still has a pretty favourable Zone Start, but he's certainly not being sheltered; he's also distributing his offence nearly dead evenly between powerplay and even strength situations, so it's not as if all his points are coming on the man advantage. After struggling in his first NHL season in 2008-09, Stamkos looks to be the real deal.
The Lightning as a whole are 7-2-0 in their past ten games, and currently ranked fifth in the East, are the only team in the top half of the conference with a negative goal differential, sitting at -10. The Bolts' offence has bailed them out on multiple occasions this season as goaltenders Mike Smith and Dan Ellis both have ES save percentages under .900. Tampa boasts both a top ten penalty kill and powerplay, which means the Flames will have to be on their game at even strength tonight and far better while down a man than they were on Sunday in Chicago.
For the Flames, Adam Pardy returns to the lineup tonight after being out since the club's home opener against the L.A. Kings, while Robyn Regehr and Jay Bouwmeester are reunited on the blueline and Staios sits after being injured against the Blackhawks. There were some rumblings earlier on today that Olli Jokinen could potentially be a healthy scratch tonight to be replaced by none other than Mikael Backlund, who sat out Sunday's game, but it has now been confirmed that Backlund will play in favour of David Moss, who finds himself in Sutter's dog house after racking up an inordinate amount of PIMs in Chicago.
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Enjoy the game everyone and lament the Flames' lack of foresight about the potential of Martin St. Louis in the comments.