AVALANCHE (32-13-5) vs. LIGHTNING (30-16-5)
Colorado 7-2-1; Tampa Bay 5-4-1
Sun Sports; AM 970 WFLA
This is the first of two contests between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Western Conference's Colorado Avalanche and lone tilt at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Tampa Bay owns a record of 9-4-2 with one tie in 16 career home games against Colorado.
Two of the NHL's biggest surprises meet for the first time this season. The Lightning are coming off a 4-3 shootout win at the Times Forum, which snapped a five-game home losing streak. They'll look to head into a four-game road trip hot, while the Avs have won four consecutive road tilts.
LIGHTNING – It may not have been a textbook example of how to capture a victory, but the important thing was that they won their first home game of the 2014 calendar year, 4-3, in a shootout versus the Ottawa Senators. It was a sigh of relief as after the game the Bolts expressed that a loss would have been another blow to their ego.
Despite taking the lead three separate times, the Sens clawed their way back after each of Tampa Bay's goals, including the game-tying tally with just 2:18 remaining in regulation to force overtime. After a scoreless extra frame, despite seven shots on net and a late power-play for the Lightning, Nikita Kucherov netted the lone tally on either side during the shootout to secure the win for the Bolts.
Steven Stamkos continues to come closer to a return. During the morning skate Saturday, Stamkos shed the red, non-contact jersey in favor of a yellow practice jersey for the first time. This designates that he has been cleared for light contact. Also after scratching two forwards every night, Tampa Bay reassigned forward Richard Panik to the AHL's Syracuse Crunch.
AVALANCHE – Ironically the Avs had a similar story in their last matchup in Sunrise, Florida Friday evening. Heading into the third period with a 3-0 lead, the Florida Panthers came within one with 1:43 remaining in regulation. Yet, netminer Semyon Varlamov answered the call in the final frame with Colorado being outshot 20-6 in the third, including 15-0 in the final 13:13 of play. It was enough to lift the Avalanche to their fourth straight victory on the road after previously losing four in a row away from the Pepsi Center.
Martin St. Louis' assist on Ondrej Palat's goal Saturday extended his point streak to nine games. During that span, he's amassed eight goals and five assists. Tyler Johnson's shorthanded goal versus Ottawa extended his point streak to four games. He also has a point in 12 of his past 15 games.
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