Last 10: Tampa Bay (5-4-1); New Jersey (8-2-0)
Season Series: Tonight marks the fourth and final meeting of the season between the two clubs. The Bolts picked up a pair of points in as many contests back in October as they fell to the Devils in shootouts at the St. Pete Times Forum. New Jersey hosted the Lightning at the Prudential Center on Dec. 4 and hung on for a 3-2 win. Steven Stamkos has four points in three games against the Devils this season, while Vincent Lecavalier and Ryan Malone have recorded two apiece.
The Big Story: Six out of the previous eight meetings between the Lightning and Devils, dating back to Mar. 7, 2008, have gone into extra time in which the Lightning have earned at least a point. Five of those contests have been determined in shootouts and one in overtime. In addition, the last five games between the two teams have been decided by just one goal. Two of the league’s top rookies in Victor Hedman and Niclas Bergfors also face off tonight. Hedman is second among all NHL rookies with 22:13 in ice time and leads all first-year players with 28.5 shifts per game, while Bergfors is second from the top among rookies in goals (13) and points (27) behind the Islanders’ John Tavares.
LIGHTNING – The Bolts take the ice inside the Prudential Center for the second time this season in the second-to-last match on their current three-game road trip. The team travels to Philadelphia after tonight’s action to wrap up the set with their fifth back-to-back game of the season. Tampa Bay is seeking its first point on the current stint away from the St. Pete Times Forum after an opening 5-3 loss at Buffalo, despite a commendable comeback effort. Martin St. Louis put the Lightning’s first tally on the board, extending his point streak to eight games. He has four goals and seven assists over that span and is two goals shy of recording 250 for his career. Alex Tanguay appeared in his 700th career game and Mike Smith made his seventh consecutive start for Tampa Bay, who has won five out of its last eight. After missing six games due to a lower body injury, defenseman Matt Walker was removed from the injury.
DEVILS – New Jersey has won two in a row and six straight at home. They look to finish strong on their home stand against Tampa Bay tonight. Like the Lightning, the Devils will also play the second half of a back-to-back set tomorrow night. They will travel to the Bell Centre to take on Montreal. Martin Brodeur recorded his fifth shutout in the team’s 4-0 win on Tuesday against Dallas, which tied him for the league lead. Patrik Elias scored twice in the contest and Jamie Langenbrunner had two assists. Brodeur leads the NHL with 27 wins and has recorded a shutout in three of his last seven starts. New Jersey posted back-to-back shutout wins at home for the sixth time in franchise history with the victory against the Stars in its last game and a 2-0 win over Pittsburgh on Dec. 30. The team’s recent success can be attributed to Brodeur as much as it can the defense in front of him, which ranks among the league’s best, allowing just 2.15 goals per game.
- Martin St. Louis is riding an eight-game point streak in which he has tallied four goals and seven assists, and Steven Stamkos has tallied three helpers in one less contest. Steve Downie has a goal and a pair of assists in as many games for the Bolts.
- New Jersey has been led by Jamie Langenbrunner, who has eight points in his last five. Patrik Elias also has totaled five points in his last two games for the Devils.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Jeff Halpern (lower body, placed on Injured Reserve, out one week) and Todd Fedoruk (lower body, placed on Injured Reserve, out one week). DEVILS – David Clarkson (lower body, placed on Injured Reserve, out two-three weeks), Dainius Zubrus (leg, placed on Injured Reserve, out four-six weeks) and Paul Martin (forearm, placed on Injured Reserve, out three weeks).
Quotable: “This is part of the learning process. Now teams are starting to key on him. He’s going to play against better players and top defensemen. The center men he will be going against will bear down even more. Like I told him the other day, he has to elevate his game, and he does have another elevation. That’s how good he can be. This is just part of the process for him.” – Head coach Rick Tocchet, on the evolution of Steven Stamkos.
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