Lightning (6-4-0, 12 Points) at Rangers (5-5-0, 10 Points)
TV/Radio: Sun Sports HD; AM 970 WFLA
The teams played last week in Tampa Bay, a game that resulted in a 3-2 Rangers win. Sunday, however, marks the second of three meetings on the year with the series finale slated for February 28 at Madison Square Garden.
The Big Story: Inclement weather in the Northeast postponed Saturday’s Bolts-Bruins game until a later date, so the Lightning would have been playing in the second half of a back-to-back set on Sunday when they face the Rangers. Instead, Tampa Bay will come in with a little extra rest, which could be just what the team needs as it looks to snap a three-game losing skid and pick up its first win in the finale of the club’s current four-game road trip. Meanwhile, the Blueshirts are coming off a win on Thursday against the New York Islanders that helped the team rebound from a previous loss. The Rangers have won two of their past three.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay plays in the finale of its current four-game road trip. After news came Saturday that the team’s scheduled game against the Bruins in Boston was postponed, the Lightning nonetheless departed to New York City to prepare for Sunday’s game. After starting the season with six wins in seven games while averaging 5.2 goals per contest, the Lightning enter into Saturday’s tilt with losses in three straight. In defeats against the Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils, Tampa Bay has seen its goal output drop, as it has averaged just 1.6 goals in that span. The good news is, though, that the Bolts still hold a one-point lead over both the Carolina Hurricanes and Winnipeg Jets in the division, each of which picked up points on Saturday in their respective games.
RANGERS – On Sunday, the Blueshirts host the Lightning to wrap up a brief two-game homestand. The team will then travel to Boston for a tilt against the Bruins before returning to the friendly confines of Madison Square Garden for its next three games. After falling Tuesday night to the division-rival New Jersey Devils, the Rangers came right back and re-gained some ground in the division standings with a 4-1 win over the Islanders. The key ingredient seemed to be secondary scoring, which in Thursday’s win over the cross-state rivals, JT Miller scored twice to spark the Rangers to their second win in their past three games. Henrik Lundqvist is expected to make his first start Sunday against the Bolts in nearly a year, but is 1-2-4 in his past seven outings against Tampa Bay.
Lightning forward Martin St. Louis has picked up 11 assists over his past seven games, while Benoit Pouliot has a pair of goals and five points in his past five games. Defenseman Matt Carle also has four points in as many games for the Bolts. For New York, Marc Staal has three points in his past three games and Chris Kreider has a pair of points in his past two games. Brad Richards also comes in with an assist in three consecutive games.
LIGHTNING – Matt Taormina (Upper Body, Placed On Injured Reserve). RANGERS – Dan Girardi (Undisclosed).
Rangers forward Brad Richards was drafted at the 1998 NHL Entry Draft by Tampa Bay and won the 2004 Conn Smythe Trophy as a member of the Stanley Cup champion Lightning. New York defenseman Matt Gilroy also is a former Bolt, as he skated in 53 games with the Lightning last season. Rangers blueliner Steve Eminger is formerly of the Lightning, and appeared in 50 games with Tampa Bay throughout the 2008-09 season. New York forward Taylor Pyatt is also the older brother of Lightning forward Tom Pyatt.
Twitter Stat Pack:
Steven Stamkos ranks third in the NHL for points with 17. Victor Hedman and Sami Salo, respectively, lead all NHL skaters in plus/minus rating with a plus-10 rating. Eric Brewer is seventh in the NHL for shooting percentage with a mark of 42.9 percent. The Lightning rank first amongst all 30 NHL clubs with an average of 4.20 goals per game. Tampa Bay is tied for the third-best win percentage in the NHL when scoring first, coming in at .833. The Bolts boast the NHL’s second-best power play at 29.6
“We can't go from being awful on the road last year to all of a sudden be outstanding. There is a process to it, and we're on the way there. I really believe it.” – Lightning head coach Guy Boucher, speaking on his team’s approach to overcoming some recent struggles away from home ice
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