NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Saturday, December 20th
(All times eastern)
Tampa Bay Lightning (7-15-9) at Atlanta Thrashers (10-17-4), 7 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The bottom two teams in the Southeast Division will meet
tonight in Atlanta, as the Thrashers host the Tampa Bay Lightning at Philips
The Lightning are tied with the New York Islanders for last in the NHL with
just 23 points, while Atlanta isn't much better with 24 points on the season.
Tampa has just three wins in its last 21 games (3-12-6) and only seven total
victories during the 2008-09 campaign. The Bolts have lost two straight and 11
of their last 12 contests and are just 2-8-5 since Rick Tocchet took over on
an interim basis for fired head coach Barry Melrose.
The Lightning were handed a 2-1 shootout loss by visiting Colorado on
Thursday, as Milan Hejduk was awarded the game-winning goal on a controversial
call in the deciding segment.
Hejduk was the fourth skater in the shootout after the first three were
unsuccessful, and he veered to the left for a backhander. His shot was stopped
by Mike Smith's blocker, but the officials huddled and ruled it a goal,
judging that Smith had thrown his stick.
On the play, Smith moved his stick out for the poke check, gripping it near
the end of the handle. As he moved to his right for the save, the stick came
loose and flew out of his grip. Whether or not it was intentional, the
goaltender was visibly displeased with the officials' judgment.
Despite the protests of Smith and Tocchet, the call stood and Andrew Raycroft
then made a glove save on Martin St. Louis, ending the contest for an
Smith turned aside 34 shots for the Lightning. Jeff Halpern, who made his
season debut after undergoing knee surgery during the summer, notched a goal
for Tampa Bay.
Tonight's test marks the opener of a three-game road trip for the Lightning,
who are 4-9-3 as the visitor and have lost nine of their last 10 away from
Tampa. The Bolts will make their next stop in Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
The Thrashers have lost four of their last five contests and were handed a 6-3
setback by visiting Pittsburgh on Thursday. Evgeni Malkin finished with two
goals and two assists to lead the Penguins to victory at Philips Arena.
Bryan Little, Marty Reasoner and Colby Armstrong tallied a goal apiece for the
Thrashers, who have lost 12 of their past 15 tests overall.
Ondrej Pavelec allowed five goals on 13 shots before being pulled in favor of
Johan Hedberg, who stopped all six shots he faced.
The Thrashers are 5-8-2 as the host and are playing the middle portion of a
three-game homestand tonight. Atlanta has lost seven straight as the host and
hasn't earned a win at Philips Arena since downing Carolina on November 14.
One of the Lightning's victories this year came versus Atlanta, a win that
halted a six-game series losing streak. Tampa Bay has still lost five straight
at Philips Arena.
12/20 10:32:26 ET