Circle Wednesday, Nov. 27 on your calendars.
That will mark the first matchup of the season between the Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning, two teams that — despite not having a great traditional rivalry — could produce one of the most heated battles this year.
A few things to keep an eye on for the 27th, when the two teams meet at Tampa Bay Times forum…
Vinny comes home
Heading in, there’ll be plenty of emotion regarding the return of longtime Bolts captain Vincent Lecavalier.
Bought out of his 11-year, $85 million deal in July, Lecavalier — the Lightning’s all-time leader in games played (1,037), goals (383), power play goals (112) and game-winning goals (60) — quickly signed with Philadelphia, saying he wanted to play in a passionate hockey market and preferred playing the Flyers’ style as opposed to “staying on your heels.”
Those quips aside, Tampa’s response should be overwhelmingly positive.
Lecavalier was a beloved figure in the area and was known for his community involvement — in 2007, he pledged $3 million to a pediatric cancer center (that bears his name) at the All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.
The Rinaldo thing
Saying the Lightning dislike Zac Rinaldo is putting it lightly.
The Flyers forward was a thorn in the Bolts’ side throughout last season — cold-cocking BJ Crombeen in a fight, taking out both Victor Hedman and Ryan Malone — which led to Tampa players suggesting retribution is in order.
“Obviously, when he’s hurting guys, you want him to be accountable for his actions,” Crombeen told the Tampa Bay Times. “There’s always a time and place, and it will come.
“You just have to wait for it.”
Crombeen’s sentiment was echoed by Lightning winger Pierre-Cedric Labrie.
“Sometimes [Rinaldo] just doesn’t think,” he explained. “At some point he has to pay for his bad behavior.”
In case you’re unaware of Rinaldo’s history with the Lightning, let’s go to the video.
First, here’s the incident with Crombeen from Feb. 5:
Both combatants had distinctly different views on the fight.
“Typically when I’ve gotten into fights with guys in that position, you stop throwing,” Crombeen said after the game. “I mean, guys fight different ways, so I’m not really going to say if it was dirty or not.”
When asked about the scrap, Rinaldo said he finished it properly.
“I hit him until he was down,” he told reporters. “I’m not going to hit nobody no matter who they are or what they done, I’ll never hit someone when they’re down. I hit him until he was down. I made sure he was down and that was it.
“I kind of felt bad in case I didn’t stop myself, but I’m pretty sure I did.”
Then — on Mar. 18, when the Bolts beat the Flyers 4-2 in Tampa — Rinaldo landed big hits on Hedman and Malone, with the latter ending up on injured reserve (shoulder).
Here’s the hit in question:
On Wednesday, Malone addressed the hit in a rather cryptic fashion.
“I don’t need to elaborate on that,” Malone told the Tampa Bay Times. “It all works itself out later.”
— The Flyers and Lightning were engaged in the infamous “trap game” of 2011.
— The Lightning pried Matt Carle away from Philadelphia during last year’s free agent period.