Last 10: Tampa Bay (2-7-1); Florida (4-4-2)
Season Series: Tampa Bay and Florida meet for the fourth time tonight with two more meetings to follow. The Lightning grabbed two points with a 3-2 win against the Panthers in their first meeting, October 12 at the St. Pete Times Forum. Florida owns the victories in the other two matchups. The Bolts and Panthers conclude their series – and their seasons – with a back-to-back home and away series, April 10 and 11.
|Jan 16, 2010||TBL@FLA||FLA, 5 - 2|
|Jan 14, 2010||FLA@TBL||FLA, 3 - 2|
|Oct 12, 2009||FLA@TBL||TBL, 3 - 2|
The Big Story: This is a huge game for both clubs as they each continue to cling to playoff hopes as the season winds down. The Lightning is currently one point ahead of the Panthers in the Eastern Conference standings, six points out of the final playoff spot. Lightning head coach Rick Tocchet has indicated that Mike Smith will likely get the start in net tonight. If he takes the ice tonight it will be Smith’s first start in five games and his first appearance against the Florida Panthers this season. Both teams played last night, with Tampa Bay dropping a hard-fought decision to the Washington Capitals, 3-1, while the Panthers fell to the Buffalo Sabres by the same score. In that game Florida fell behind 1-0 in the first period, generating just five shots on net to 18 shots for the Sabres. Panther netminder Tomas Vokoun was pulled early in the second period after Buffalo scored their second goal of the game. It marked the 2nd time in 3 games that Vokoun started but did not finish.
LIGHTNING: The Lightning has just concluded a winless four-game homestand during which they were able to generate only five goals. Vincent Lecavalier picked up his 22nd goal of the season last evening in the loss to Washington. Following tonight’s contest, The Bolts return home to meet the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday, March 23, before heading out on their last multi-game road trip, a four-gamer that will take them to Boston, Buffalo, Columbus and Pittsburgh. Despite last night’s loss, Lightning head coach Rick Tocchet was pleased with the effort of his club, characterizing it as “excellent.” “The guys worked really hard,” Tocchet said.
PANTHERS: Including last night’s loss to the Sabres, Florida has dropped 4 of the last 5 games, including 3 in a row at home. Center Stephen Weiss leads the team in scoring with 52 points and goals with 24. Forward Cory Stillman has 3 goals and 1 assist in 3 games vs. Tampa Bay this season.
Who’s Hot: Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier has scored a goal in two consecutive games and 7 goals in the last 8 games. Lecavalier has tallied 5 assists in three games this season against the Panthers.
Florida’s center Gregory Campbell has collected 4 assists in the last 4 games.
“I didn’t think he was (Vokoun) was good enough…it wasn’t a good enough first period by anybody, including our goaltender, “ - Panthers head coach Pete DeBoer.
“In life, this is where you test your character and bounce back.” – Lightning head coach Rick Tocchet
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