Lightning (21-10-5, 47 Points) vs. Bruins (19-11-4, 42 Points)
Last 10: Tampa Bay (7-1-2); Boston (5-3-2)
Season Series: The Lightning and Bruins meet tonight for the third of four meetings on the season. In two previous matchups this year, the two clubs have split victories, with Tampa Bay earning a win in the first contest on Nov. 22 before Boston returned the favor on Dec. 2.
The Big Story: Tampa Bay has points in eight straight games and earned a big victory in its last game over division-rival Atlanta to keep pace with Washington in the Southeast Division’s top spot. Boston did exactly the same last night in the first half of a back-to-back set with the Panthers, defeating Florida 3-2 in a shootout to vault itself into a first-place tie with Montreal atop the Northeast Division and make for an interesting matchup between two division leaders tonight.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay got through the Christmas break just how it had hoped. It entered the short hiatus in first place of its division in the days prior to the holiday and found itself in the same position on the day after, as it earned a 3-2 overtime victory against division foe Atlanta. Vincent Lecavalier scored twice, including the game-winner just over a minute into the extra session, and hoped his team could continue their consecutive games point streak, which stands at eight entering tonight. The stretch serves as the team’s longest since it had points in 18 straight from February to March of 2004 en route to a Stanley Cup championship. Tonight’s game kicks off a three-game home stand at the St. Pete Times Forum, which wraps up with a New Year’s Day encore against the Rangers.
BRUINS – Boston will complete a back-to-back set tonight against the Lightning after climbing into a first-place tie with Montreal following a 3-2 shootout win in Sunrise last night. Boston has won three of the last four and plays in the second game of the team’s five-game road trip tonight, with the first three meetings of the swing coming against Southeast Division opponents. It will wrap up the trip in Toronto on Monday. Boston kicked off its five-game road trip in winning fashion, thanks to a strange shootout goal by Blake Wheeler. The Bruins’ forward scored on Boston's second attempt after losing control of the puck while trying to deke Scott Clemmensen, and his shot from a sharp angle then hit the post before bouncing in off Clemmensen’s ankle as the Bruins skated away with the victory.
Who’s Hot: Ryan Malone is leading the Lightning with points in 11 of his last 13 games, while Steven Stamkos has four goals and six points in his last five. Vincent Lecavalier also has five points in as many games, while Martin St. Louis has a pair of consecutive two-point games under his belt entering tonight. Boston center Patrice Bergeron has tallied six points in his last five contests, and David Krejci had two goals last night against the Panthers.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Randy Jones (upper body, day to day), Steve Downie (ankle sprain, out 1 week, placed on Injured Reserve) and Mike Smith (minor knee injury, out 2 weeks, placed on Injured Reserve). BRUINS – Brad Marchand (undisclosed injury) and Andrew Ference (eye).
Notable Quotable: “It's huge for us. We're a team that really wants to make a name for ourselves this year. I think the team has struggled for a couple years, and this year we really wanted to show that with our new ownership, new general manager, new coaches, everything — all the way down — that we're a real team. We want to be the best team in the league, so we have to play that way every night.” – Dan Ellis, on the long-term goals of the team in the midst of its season-high eight-game point streak
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