Chicago Visits Lightning For First Time Since 2005
The resurgent Chicago Blackhawks pay a rare visit to Tampa to face the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum.
The Blackhawks have not played in Tampa since December 2, 2005. That contest ended in a 3-2 Lightning win.
The Lightning (19-26-11) are in fourth place in the Southeast Division and will need to string together a run of wins to get any consideration for a shot at the Eastern Division playoffs. With time running low, they are 15 points out of the eighth playoff position.
Forward Ryan Malone has had three goals in the last two games. The overall point leader for the Lightning continues to be Martin St. Louis with 54 points while Vincent Lecavalier leads the team in goals with 25. That number has Lecavalier tied for 10th among all NHL goal scorers.
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks (31-15-8) have all but secured a playoff spot this season. They are currently in second place in the Central Division with 70 points on the year.
Chicago is led by Patrick Kane with 48 points in his second season in the NHL and veteran Martin Havlat with 45 points. In their last meeting with the Lightning, November 28, 2007 in Chicago, Kane recorded three assists and Havlat had two goals as the Blackhawks defeated Tampa Bay, 5-1. Patrick Sharp, leading the Blackhawks with goals scored with 23, is out 2-3 weeks with a lower body injury and will not face the Lightning.
An old friend who may be in the lineup, goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, may recognize the Forum more than the Lightning, since only two players, Lecavalier and St. Louis, remain from the 2004 team that won the Stanley Cup with Khabibulin in the net.
Khabibulin is riding an excellent season in Chicago, sporting a .924 save percentage, 6th best among all NHL netminders.
The Lightning are 2-2 on the current homestand, which will conclude with a visit from the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.