Last 10: Tampa Bay (5-4-1); Atlanta (5-3-2)
Season Series: Tonight’s game at Philips Arena marks the fifth meeting between Tampa Bay and Atlanta this season, with the Lightning holding a 3-1 series edge over their Southeast Division rivals. The two clubs recently squared off just more than a week ago at the St. Pete Times Forum where the Bolts edged out a 2-1 shootout win thanks to Antero Niittymaki’s 37 saves and Jeff Halpern’s first career shootout goal. Tampa Bay also picked up a pair of wins on Dec. 26 in front of the home crowd, as well as on Nov. 22 in Atlanta. The Thrashers, on the other hand, took the first matchup of the season back on Oct. 3. The teams will meet for the final time on Mar. 6 in Tampa Bay.
|Jan 23, 2010||ATL@TBL||TBL, 2 - 1|
|Dec 26, 2009||ATL@TBL||TBL, 4 - 3|
|Nov 22, 2009||TBL@ATL||TBL, 4 - 3|
|Oct 3, 2009||TBL@ATL||ATL, 6 - 3|
The Big Story: Tampa Bay sits just one point behind Atlanta in the Eastern Conference standings and could jump the Thrashers with a win tonight that would keep the team on pace in the tightly bunched race for the final playoff spot. The Lightning have won three in a row over the Thrashers. Six of the last 10 matches between the two clubs have been decided by just one goal, with Tampa Bay outscoring Atlanta 18-17 in those contests amidst a 4-1-1 record. Antero Niittymaki comes into tonight with a career record of 15-0-0 against Atlanta, with a shutout and a 1.79 goals-against average.
LIGHTNING - Tampa Bay will play its last game on the road tonight before heading back to the St. Pete Times Forum for a four-game home stand. The Lightning are 3-1-1 in their last five and have earned points in four of the last five as well. Martin St. Louis scored for the third straight time and Steven Stamkos moved into a tie for first place with his 12th power play goal and 26th point with the man advantage in the team’s last game against Washington on Sunday. The pair of Lightning forwards scored nearly three minutes apart in the final period to erase a two-goal deficit and tie the game, but the valiant come-from-behind effort resulted in a 3-2 loss. The team’s active roster was trimmed by one over the weekend, as Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Lawton elected to reassign center Paul Szczechura to Norfolk of the AHL for conditioning.
THRASHERS – Atlanta plays in front of the home crowd tonight in a brief one-game stint before traveling to the nation’s capital to the take on division rival Washington on Friday. The Thrashers have had issues with consistency lately, as they have alternated wins and losses all but twice in their last 12 games. The team won two straight following a shootout loss to the Lightning on Jan. 23 before dropping its most recent game to Nashville on Saturday. Atlanta got a pair of goals from Bryan Little to send a 3-3 tie into the final period, but Jason Arnott scored seven seconds into the frame as the Predators managed to hold off the Thrashers.
Who’s Hot: Steven Stamkos is riding a six-game point streak, tying a career-high, with four goals and five assists in that span. Martin St. Louis has scored a goal in three straight and has recorded seven points in as many games. Kurtis Foster also has five points in his last five for the Lightning.
- Atlanta’s Nik Antropov has tallied three assists in his last two contests, while Ilya Kovalchuk and Todd White each have a pair of points for the Thrashers in as many games.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – None. THRASHERS – Mark Popovic (foot) and Christoph Schubert (lower body).
Quotable: “We’re going to need a lot of passion and a lot of smart hockey players. Passion, but smart. If you’re out there running around being an idiot, being stupid, that’s not passion to me. If you’re ready off the draw, go to the net hard and play the coach’s system, you’re taking short shifts, you’re getting after some of their best players and you’re getting in their faces.” – Lightning head coach Rick Tocchet
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