Lightning (14-18-1, 29 Points) vs. Devils (15-11-7, 37 Points)
TV/Radio: Sun Sports HD; AM 970 WFLA
Friday’s matchup is the third and final meeting between the Devils and Lightning, which have split each of the first two games this year. Tampa Bay won the most recent contest on March 5 at the Prudential Center by a 5-2 score, avenging an early-season loss that occurred back on February 7, also in New Jersey.
The Big Story:
New Lightning head coach Jon Cooper will make his NHL coaching debut behind the bench on Friday against the Devils with Tampa Bay just six points out of the final playoff spot and 15 games left to play in the regular season. The Lightning snapped a three-game losing streak on Tuesday to get back on the winning track, and they’ll use that as momentum to combat a Devils team has gained points in three straight.
LIGHTNING - Tampa Bay continues its three-game homestand Friday, which is the middle contest of the swing that wraps up Tuesday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum against the division-rival Panthers. The Bolts have won three straight contests on home ice and look to make it four in a row after defeating the Sabres in front of a 17th consecutive sellout crowd on Tuesday night. Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis each had goals, and assisted on the other’s tallies as well. Mathieu Garon was spectacular in net and pitched a shutout for nearly 57 minutes, that is until Jordan Leopold spoiled the bid late in the game. Still, the contest marked one of Tampa Bay’s most complete efforts of the season, as it played the role of the aggressor all night, winning the battles for loose pucks and backchecking forcefully. It also limited the Sabres to a season-low total in shots on goal as it earned its first win in four tries.
DEVILS – New Jersey travels to Tampa Bay to skate in the second contest of a three-game road trip. After losing three straight, the Devils have earned victories in two of their past three games to stay alive in the postseason race, although not by much. New Jersey enters Friday’s contest seventh in the conference standings, just two points ahead of the eighth-place Rangers. Although it ultimately lost to Ottawa on Monday night, it was important for the Devils to pick up a point, as it lost 3-2 in the shootout. The Devils overcame a pair of one-goal deficits, with the second thanks to Marek Zidlicky, who scored in the third period to send the game to overtime. Ottawa, however, got the winning goal from Mika Zibanejad, who beat Martin Brodeur in the tiebreaker after he was forced to make just 12 saves in regulation.
Lightning forwards Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos each have collected three points in their past two games, while Cory Conacher has a goal and an assist in his past two as well. New Jersey’s Travis Zajac has recorded four assists in his past three games, while Steve Bernier has points in two of his past three.
LIGHTNING – Vincent Lecavalier (Lower Body, Placed On Injured Reserve), Ryan Malone (Upper Body, Placed On Injured Reserve), Anders Lindback (Lower Body, Placed On Injured Reserve), BJ Crombeen (Lower Body, Day-To-Day) and Pierre-Cedric Labrie (Upper Body, Placed On Injured Reserve).
DEVILS – Ilya Kovalchuk (Upper Body) and Alex Ponikarovsky (Lower Body, Placed On Injured Reserve).
Twitter Stat Pack:
The Bolts have sold out each of their first 17 home games this season (capacity 19,204). Nate Thompson has scored goals in each of the two games in the season series against the Devils. The Lightning will be looking for their first win against the Devils in Tampa Bay since Feb. 25, 2011. Over Martin St. Louis’ past four games against the Devils dating back to last season, he's recorded four goals and four assists, including one hat trick. The Bolts have scored a power play goal in each of their past two games, while the Devils haven't allowed a power play goal against over that same stretch.
“Regardless of what happens, when the fans leave this rink they’re going to be proud of this team. Until the final buzzer goes in the last game of the season, I'm coming to make the playoffs.” – New Lightning head coach Jon Cooper, on what he hopes to accomplish in just a short time behind the bench this season
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