TAMPA, Fla. Halfway there, and a whole lot of headaches to show for it.
That's the story for the Tampa Bay Lightning midway through the 2011-12 season, as the team begins a welcome second-half homestand after a horror show on the road last week.
The black-and-blue Bolts trudged across the frozen Canadian tundra, losing players left and right and losing games to Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal by an unsightly combined score of 14-5.
Ongoing injuries to key players have left the team more than vulnerable as it desperately tries to make up ground now, lodged in fourth place in the Eastern Conference's Southeast Division at 17-20-3. On the heels of its 3-1 loss to the lowly Canadiens on Saturday, the Lightning finds itself nine points out of the last playoff spot heading into a critical stretch.
Of course, things looked a lot rosier before Tampa Bay left town, winning three straight and appearing to turn a corner in a season of frustration. Then the bottom fell out again, leaving the...