Last 10: Tampa Bay (3-6-1); Columbus (6-2-2)
Season Series: Tonight’s contest at Nationwide Arena marks the first and only matchup of the year between the Lightning and Blue Jackets. The two clubs will meet for just the 10th time in history this evening, with Tampa Bay holding a 5-3-1 overall series record.
The Big Story: Steven Stamkos and Rick Nash will square off tonight in a meeting between two of the league’s hottest goal scorers. Stamkos comes in tied with Alex Ovechkin for the most goals scored since Feb. 17 of last season with 61, while Nash is not far behind with 48. The two forwards also find themselves in the same company on a number of historical scoring lists, including that for most goals scored in NHL history by a pair of teenagers. Furthermore, Stamkos and Nash are just two of six players in the last two decades who have scored 50 goals and 100 points before the age of 20. Stamkos is also bidding to become the youngest player to lead the NHL in goals since Nash shared Maurice Richard Trophy honors with Jarome Iginla and Ilya Kovalchuk in 2004.
LIGHTNING – The Bolts continue on their four-game road trip, with tonight’s contest in Columbus marking the third stop before the team concludes the stint in Pittsburgh tomorrow night. Tampa Bay hopes to improve its record on the trip to 2-1 with a win tonight, after it fell to Buffalo on Saturday night at HSBC Arena. Steve Downie scored the Lightning’s lone goal in the second period and Mike Lundin recorded an assist for the third straight game, but in a 7-1 loss. Saturday’s game against the Sabres, however, saw the return of veteran blue liner Mattias Ohlund, who missed the previous seven games because of a lower body injury. Defensemen Kurtis Foster and David Hale did not play due to injuries suffered in a 5-3 Lighting win on Mar. 25 at Boston.
BLUE JACKETS – Columbus returns home tonight for a one-game stint before traveling back on the road for a meeting with Detroit on Thursday. The team recently returned from Chicago following Sunday’s 4-2 win over the Blackhawks, its second victory in its last three games. Jakub Voracek had two goals and an assist, and Mike Commodore and Andrew Murray added additional scores to support a 33-save effort by goaltender Steve Mason, who won consecutive starts for the first time since taking three straight from Feb. 4-10. R.J. Umberger and Derick Brassard each had two assists in the game as well.
Who’s Hot: Steve Downie has recorded points in four straight and Mike Lundin comes in with a three-game assist streak with as many helpers in that span. Martin St. Louis has four points in three games, while Vincent Lecavalier has 11 points in his last 13. Steven Stamkos also has 18 points in 15 games for the Lightning.
- Columbus’ R.J. Umberger has tallied five points in his last four contests and Rick Nash has collected four points in his last three. Jakub Voracek also comes in with eight goals and 13 assists in his last 17 contests and Kristian Huselius has amassed 13 points in his last eight, while Antoine Vermette has six points in his last four.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Ryan Malone (upper body, day-to-day), Kurtis Foster (upper body, day-to-day), Matt Smaby (back spasms, day-to-day) and David Hale (lower body, out). BLUE JACKETS – Rostislav Klesla (out indefinitely), Derek MacKenzie (out 1 month), Jan Hejda (out 3-4 weeks) and Jared Boll (day-to-day).
Quotable: “If you want to play for Tampa Bay, and all that kind of stuff, you are looking for character players, you are looking for guys with pride. That’s what we should be striving for as an organization.” – Lightning head coach Rick Tocchet following Saturday’s loss at Buffalo
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