Thrashers or Devils/Craig update
Who would you rather face in the first round of the playoffs? If the Lightning wins tonight and the Rangers lose in regualtion, Tampa Bay gets the Thrashers with the No. 6 seed. Any other scenario and it plays the Devils as a No. 7.
With the Thrashers you get a team you know well and which Tampa Bay has handled during the regular season. It also is a team with many players who have never felt playoff pressure. With the Devils you have an experienced team with perhaps the game's all-time greatest goaltender in Martin Brodeur. On the other hand the Lightning handled them also this season, winning three of four and twice in New Jersey. That said, Brodeur in mid January isn't the same Brodeur you will see in the playoffs. And New Jersey's trapping, smothering game is very well suited for tighter playoff hockey.
For me, I believe the Lightning would match up a bit better against the Thrashers. Don't get me wrong, I don't think the Lightning should fear either squad. It just seems Atlanta has a few more intangibles it would have to overcome. On the other hand, I believe Lightning players, especially the big boys, really like the spotlight playing so near New York provides.
But what do I know? I thought with the division title on the line, the Lightning would play tough on Friday against the Panthers. So much for six years of experience giving you an insight into how a team will play.
Left wing Ryan Craig skated Saturday morning but reported more tenderness in his sprained left knee and will sit out a second straight game. Andreas Karlsson also is out in favor of Blair Jones.