Tampa's back end is somewhat renovated, boasting an array of very tall, but relatively immobile blue-liners, and no true puck mover. While Viktor Hedman has improved his defensive zone coverage, the offensive numbers aren't truly there just yet. Pavel Kubina, Matthias Ohlund, and pre-deadline acquisition Eric Brewer are also among the large, but not necessarily swift corps of d-men. All of this is in front of the still ambulatory Dwayne Roloson, who certainly isn't a long term solution in Tampa, but has been at least serviceable in net with a 2.61 GAA and .909 save percentage since escaping The Island, which is far better than what Dan Ellis or Mike Smith were able to do.
Tonight is also the suspected return of power-play specialist Marc-Andre Bergeron to the lineup, and his presence is key, as Tampa's power play accounts for nearly 29 percent (58/196) of all their goals scored, which is reinforced by looking at the +/- for the lineup. Stamkos is best on the team with only a +7, and Simon Gagne is a shocking team worst at -19. For all the offense they possess, they still give up more than they score, which means the Hawks need to stay out of the box at all costs, and not allow Stamkos to set up shop at the top of the left faceoff ring if they find themselves down a man (or 2).
As for the Men of Four Feathers, tonight presents not only an opportunity to begin a new streak, but also to maintain their place within the West. Another slip-up can't be afforded tonight, and if the Hawks come out as flat as they did yesterday, the Lightning won't be so kind as the Cats were in leaving the first with only a nearly-surmountable 3-0 lead. Tonight's lineup of skaters is assumed to the same as the last few, though it will be interesting to see if Quenneville goes back to pairing Marlboro 72 to not only to counteract Stamkos and St. Louis but also to keep Nick Leddy away from them, because Dave Bolland will almost assuredly be out there against them any chance there is. There's been no word yet as to who gets the nod in the cage tonight between Corey Crawford or Marty Turco, but although Turco played well in relief last night, Crow sitting for 40 minutes may green-light him for tonight in Q's mind. Regardless of who's in net, this figures to be a track meet, but the Hawks have the advantage on the blue line in that respect. A similar strategy as was employed against Calgary with shallow chip-ins at the opponent's line would serve the Hawks well tonight to be able to use their speed advantage on the Tampa D. It's a pedal to the metal night in every respect. 82 points are better than 80. Let's go Hawks.
UPDATE: Crawford will be starting tonight, and Fernando Pisani will re-enter the lineup per Tracey Myers. No word on who The Pope-Ah is replacing, but the early favorite would seem to be Stalberg.