The Lightning return from the Olympic break this evening in Nashville, kicking off a four game road trip that pits the Bolts against four teams from the Western Conference with playoff aspirations:
- Nashville Predators (25-24-10, 60 PTS): The Predators trail the Western Conference wild card hopefuls by 5 points and stumbled into the break, having lost three in a row.
- Dallas Stars (27-21-10, 64 PTS): Dallas is currently 1 point out of the Western Conference wild card, having played strong heading into the break, going 6-2-2.
- Colorado Avalanche (37-17-5, 79 PTS): The Avs trail the Blues and Blackhawks in the Central Division and are currently 6th in goals per game (3.0). They resumed play Wednesday evening with a 6-4 loss at home to the Kings.
- St. Louis Blues (39-13-6, 84 PTS): The Blues sit atop the Central Division, tied for the lead with the Blackhawks. They currently lead the league in goal differential and are a tough beat at home, going 22-5-3 on the season.
Tampa is currently 2nd in the Atlantic Division (8 points back of Boston), and third in the Eastern Conference. The biggest news coming out of the Bay Area is the return of Steven Stamkos, though it was stated earlier this week that he will not play during the Lightning’s road trip, delaying his return until at least March 6th. Stamkos will be one of the biggest trade deadline (March 5th) acquisitions of any team, and the return of their star player should give the Lightning the push they need down the stretch to clinch a high playoff seed.
With that said, the most recent rumblings out of Tampa indicate a potential Marty St. Louis trade. Rumors have been swirling since St. Louis was left off of the Canadian Olympic squad, attributing the snub to Steve Yzerman, the Lightning general manager and Team Canada executive director (NOTE: St. Louis eventually replaced Stamkos, who was unable to play due to injury). Marty is bitter with the situation and reportedly has asked for a trade. Neither Yzerman nor St. Louis has done anything to dispel these rumors, which should lead to an extremely interesting trade deadline for the Lightning. St. Louis, who is arguably one of the franchise’s greatest players, leads the Bolts this season with 25 goals and 31 assists in 58 games.