Tampa Bay Lightning Captain Vincent Lecavalier is expected to make his return to the lineup Thursday night in New Jersey as the Lightning look to keep their faint playoff hopes alive.
Vinny has missed 18 games after putting up 21 goals and 25 assists for 46 points in his first 58 games this season. He will add a spark to a team that has been playing well as of late, but has to go virtually undefeated and hope for two major collapses to make the playoffs.
It won’t be easy as they face long time nemesis Martin Brodeur at the Prudential Center. Marty is 10-2 over his last 12 meetings with Tampa Bay and the Devils can clinch a post season berth with a victory.
Dwayne Roloson is expected to be between the pipes for the Lightning and despite a 1.87 career GAA vs the Devils, he has only a 1-3 record.
New Jersey is 43-28-6 for 92 points while Tampa Bay sits at 35-34-7 for 77 points.
Tampa Bay is lead by Steven Stamkos who leads the NHL in goal scoring with 55. The 55 goals is also a new Tampa Bay team record for goals in a season. He has added 35 assists for a total of 90 points on the year. Martin St. Louis leads the team with 46 assists to go with 24 goals for a total of 70 points. With Vinny returning it will make both players even more potent on the ice.
New Jersey is led by Ilya Kovalchuk who has lit the lamp 32 times with 43 assists for a total of 75 points. Patrik Elias has 25 goals and 45 assists for 70 points on the year.
Roloson is 11-15-2 on the season with a 3.66 GAA and a shutout. Certain Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur has a record of 27-21-4 with 2 shutouts and a 2.46 GAA.
The Lightning are 12-20-5 on the road while New Jersey is 21-13-4 at the Prudential Center.
Steven Stamkos is trying to reach the 60 goal mark for the year. That mark has only been reached one time since the 2007-08 season when Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals scored 65. You have to go all the way back to 1995-96 to find the last 60 goal scorer before that, when Jaromir Jagr fired home 62 with the Penguins.
Despite the uphill battle to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs Steven Stamkos says nobody is just playing out the stretch. “No one is giving up,” said Stamkos, who has 16 points in his last 12 games against the Devils. “Guys have gotten called up from the American League and are stepping up and trying to prove that they can be an everyday NHL player and that’s all we can ask from them.”
Ray Blanchette covers the Tampa Bay Lightning for Outside The Redzone. He also owns Blanchette Sports Holdings, a new sporting company that will operate 8 different sports leagues. Follow along with them at www.blanchettesportsholdings.weebly.com or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=100003521034703&sk=wall or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/BlanchettSports