Saturday, December 17, 2005

GameDay: @Tampa Bay (18-11-3, 39 Pts) 7:30 ET

Tonight, the Wings will wrap up both their three-game road trip and their season series against Eastern Conference teams when they face the Lightning in Tampa Bay. The teams only faced each other once in 2003-2004 and that game was one of the most highly anticipated games of the season. The game was on March 8th, 2004, an eventful night in the NHL. The Wings and Lightning skated to a 1-1 tie (Detroit lost Robert Lang to a rib injury but regained Derian Hatcher that night) but on the other side of the country, Todd Bertuzzi was disgracing the league. Detroit will be looking to salvage this rather unsuccessful (record-wise) road trip with a win tonight. So far, they have only 1 point out of a possible four, losing in regulation to the Thrashers Tuesday night and in overtime to the Panthers Thursday. Before this two-game slide, the Wings had won three in a row and looked to be gaining momentum but they have played from behind in both their previous two games and have lost in spite of valiant efforts to come back and pull ahead. They still lead the West with 45 points, three ahead of the nearest team, Vancouver, but their 5-4-1 (.500) record in the past 10 games doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in their ability to stay ahead. With teams like Dallas and Vancouver 8-2-0 and 7-3-0 receptively in their past 10, the Wings need to get their act together if they want to stay on top. The defending Stanley Cup Champions have only lost twice in their last 12 but are still three points back of the Hurricanes for first place in the Southeast Division (the days of the Southleast Division are gone, it seems). The Lightning are fully healthy, a contrast to the Wings, who always seem to be down a key player. They too will end their interconference play tonight and will look to go undefeated against Central Division teams with a win over the Wings. Their only interconference loss came in Anaheim on Wednesday but they rebounded with a 3-1 win over the Coyotes the next night. They are 10-5-1 at home so far this season but have a miserable power play (14.8%, contrast to the Wings' 26.6%). I find that surprising given their roster boasts such talent as Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis. Chris Osgood will get the nod tonight. He is 14-0-0 against the Lightning in his career. Though it hasn't always been the case, the Lightning are an exciting team to watch and will make it very tough for the Wings to get a win tonight. Hopefully, the Wings will bring their "A game" and play a full 60 minutes they way they can.


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