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This is the second meeting this season and first at BB&T Center between the intrastate rivals in 2013-14. The Florida Panthers were handed a 7-2 loss in downtown Tampa at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in the Lightning’s home opener on October 10. The two clubs play each other again on December 23 in Sunrise, Florida, before closing out the season series at home in mid-March.
The Big Story:
Coming off of a win Saturday, the Bolts look for their third-straight victory in the second half of back-to-backs Sunday evening against the Panthers. Florida hopes to snap a two-game losing streak in the 5 p.m. contest, earning their last win a week ago in a shootout versus the Minnesota Wild. The Lightning are ranked third in the NHL for average goals-for per game (3.40), while Florida has been held to two goals or less in their past four games and rank 26th in the league in the same category.
LIGHTNING – Closing out their season-long, seven-game homestand with a 5-2-0 record was more than the Lightning coaching staff could have hoped for heading into a three-game road trip that begins Sunday. Not only facing some unfamiliar Western Conference foes, the Lightning also had some tough competition from the East, including their second visits each with the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks.
Tampa Bay completed their tour at the Times Forum with another comeback win Saturday night, after two unanswered goals in the final five minutes of play. While somewhat of a sloppy game for the Lightning, the team agreed that they will take the two points regardless, especially against a division foe in the Buffalo Sabres. The game was also the first of two back-to-back games against the Atlantic Division.
With two games in as many nights, head coach Jon Cooper optioned to have recent healthy scratches Keith Aulie and Mark Barberio in Saturday’s roster. Goaltender Anders Lindback is also expected to get his third start of the season in net on Sunday evening and the team may try to slot P.C. Labrie and Andrej Sustr back in the lineup as well.
PANTHERS – Handed a tough loss by the Sabres on Friday, the Panthers were unable to phase Buffalo goalie Jhonas Enroth, who was a force in net stopping 44 of 45 Florida shots. The Sabres broke a 1-1 tie with less than eight minutes remaining in the game that eventually ended 3-1.
As of late offense, or lack thereof, has been an issue for the Panthers, who have also been shut out twice in 11 games this year. Inconsistency has been an issue too; each of their three wins this season have been followed by more than one loss in a row.
Hopeful news for Florida however was that forward Sean Bergenheim played in his first game in almost 18 months on Friday. Yet netminder Tim Thomas remains out with a lower body injury.
The Lightning blueline has contributed seven points (two goals, five assists) in their past two games. Steven Stamkos has five points (two goals, three assists) in his past two games and currently ranks third in the NHL for that category.
10/16 – Recalled F Brett Connolly from Syracuse (AHL)
10/19 – Reassigned F Brett Connolly to Syracuse (AHL)
Twitter Stat Pack:
Leading the #TBLightning with 15 points, @RealStamkos91 also ranks third in the @NHL in that category.
The #TBLightning blueline has notched seven points (two goals, give assists) in their past two games.
With a goal last night, @tjohnny09 now has two power-play goals and four points in his last five games.
Sunday night completes the first of 12 sets of back-to-back games this season for the #TBLightning.
The #TBLightning currently rank third in the @NHL in average goals-for per game with 3.40.
“I’ve had the pleasure of coach Ondrej Palat for three years now. He’s one of those guys that kind of goes unnoticed all the time. I think in these last three games he’s played, it would be really hard to argue me out of saying he’s been the best player out on the ice for us” – Head coach Jon Cooper on Ondrej Palat after scoring the game-winner Saturday
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