THE LIGHTNING INSIDER
The Lightning haven't enjoyed a lot of success in South Florida the past two seasons, so maybe the fact the team moved into a new hotel this trip will change the fortunes a bit. The new spot is nicer hotel than past locations, but it’s a bit isolated. The Sawgrass Mills mall, with its restaurants and movie theater, was located directly across the street from the previous location.
The BankAtlantic Center was Johan Holmqvist's own personal house of horrors last season, but Holmer seems to be playing with more confidence now than at any point last season. Tonight is a huge opportunity for him to build on his great start as he gets the call once again.
The Panthers are playing with confidence heading into tonight after a 3-0 win against New Jersey Thursday. They also probably feel like they deserved a better fate against the Lightning Wednesday night at the St. Pete Times Forum.
The Cats had a slight scare at their morning skate today when goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who shut out New Jersey and is scheduled to play tonight, took a deflected shot in the throat and was down on the ice for a couple of minutes. Vokoun went to the bench briefly with a Panthers trainer, then returned to practice. Much of the Florida workout centered on getting traffic in front of the net tonight to screen Holmqvist. The coaches had all three forwards charging the net while the defensemen fired from the points.
Branislav Mezei looks like the defensive scratch for Florida tonight, with Noah Welch expected to play his second consecutive game. For the Lightning, Doug Janik stayed out to skate late with coaches Mike Sullivan and Jeff Reese after the optional skate, meaning Matt Smaby will likely get in his second game of the season.
John Tortorella, who didn’t go on the ice, told the gathered media and broadcasters that the Lightning’s focus is on being faster in all aspects of the game.
“It’s important that we play with a lot of speed because this is a very quick hockey team we’re playing tonight,” he said. “Tonight’s game will be a high-tempo game if the ice allows it.”
Finally, Tortorella talked about Michel Ouellet’s adjustment to the Lightning. Tortorella said Ouellet has been challenged by the coaching staff to win more battles and get into more scoring areas for Brad Richards, and he’s interested to see how he performs tonight.