Smith expected to start tonight against Rangers
After a week on the road and posting a 2-2-0 record in those games with victories over the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins, the Lightning return home tonight to begin their final home stand of the season against the New York Rangers. The team had the day off yesterday and had a quick morning skate today so they should have some jump in their legs tonight. Rick Tocchet said they will need it too because the Rangers will come out fighting. New Yok enters tonight's game four points out of a playoff spot.
Tocchet heavily praised defenseman Mike Lundin this morning as well. Lundin has gone from beginning the season in the minors to what Tocchet called the Lightning's best defenseman. It has been a long road for him, but it appears to have led him in the right direction. Tocchet said his gapping is his biggest strength and that when there was ice time available he took it. It is amazing that in one season he has gone from being too low on the organizational depth chart to make the team to shutting down some of the NHL's top players every night.
As for tonight's game, Mike Smith will be back in the pipes. Smitty seemed to get stronger as the game went on Wednesday en route to notching his 10th career shutout. He seemed to flop around a little bit during the Penguins' five-minute power play early in the game, but by the end of it he was on the top of his crease challenging shooters and making it look easy. Hopefully he can let his confidence continue to grow tonight.
Teddy Purcell, a healthy scratch on Wednesday, will return to the line up tonight against New York. Tocchet said that Purcell has been over-passing of late and that he needs to have more of a battle mentality. Purcell has shown some great hands and shot so far but he just needs to get his nose dirty a little more. He will take Stephane Veilleux's spot in the line up. The rest of the line up will remain the same with Matt Walker, Victor Hedman, Matt Smaby and David Hale still nursing some injuries. That means Vlad Mihalik, who has played quite well the past two games, and Matt Lashoff will be back on the ice tonight.
Tomorrow the Lightning are inviting fans to the St. Pete Times Forum to help them "Bring it Back" with practice open to the public followed by an autograph session with the entire team for an hour with 2010-11 season ticket holders on the Club Level. It should be a great event and a great opportunity for fans to get up close and personal with the players before the season comes to a close. Click here for more information.