Lightning (26-13-5) vs. Devils (11-29-2)
Last 10: Tampa Bay (7-3-0); New Jersey (2-8-0)
Season Series: Two more contests will follow after tonight, as this is the second of four meetings. The two clubs met five days ago in Newark where the Devils earned a 6-3 victory over Tampa Bay.
The Big Story: Tampa Bay took sole possession of first place in its last game after its second consecutive shutout over Washington Wednesday night. The play of Dwayne Roloson has helped the Lightning maintain pace for the playoffs, allowing just one goal or fewer in each of his three wins since joining the team on New Year’s Day. New Jersey has won just a pair of games in its last 10, with one of those coming against the Lightning last weekend as it looks to claim its second straight over the Bolts.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay hosts New Jersey in what will be the first of the next four games in which the Lightning alternate home and road contests. The Bolts play in the first half of a back-to-back set tonight and will travel to Carolina immediately following this evening’s game to take on the Hurricanes Saturday at the RBC Center. Tampa Bay has won seven of the last eight games at home, while nearly doubling its opponents’ goal total in that span. Dwayne Roloson led the Lightning to their third straight home win Wednesday behind a 23-save effort in a shutout of the Capitals, which moved Tampa Bay ahead of Washington for sole possession of first place in the Southeast Division. The Lightning net minder is 3-1-0 with a 1.72 GAA and .946 SV% since joining the Lightning and will get the start again tonight versus New Jersey. Despite the win over the division rivals, several players including Sean Bergenheim, Mattias Ohlund and even Head Coach Guy Boucher stressed that while pleased, the team still is maturing and has a ways to go, as each emphasized the importance of staying humble in spite of where the team stands in the conference standings.
DEVILS – This is New Jersey’s first game since the two teams last met on Sunday in Newark. The Devils are surely rested, having four days off to prepare for the matchup as they look to win their second straight over Tampa Bay. A three-game road trip kicks off tonight as well, with the team also playing in the first contest on consecutive nights, as it will travel south to Sunrise immediately following tonight’s game for a matchup with the Panthers Saturday evening. New Jersey is looking to feel good about something after winning just once in its last five games, coincidentally against the Lightning. David Clarkson had two goals in the last meeting and the Devils capped off a five-goal scoring surge in the final 20 minutes with a pair of empty-net tallies to give them their first win of the New Year.
Who’s Hot: Dominic Moore is riding a three-game point streak with two goals and an assist in that span, while teammate Nate Thompson has three assists and four points in his last six games. David Clarkson has three goals in as many games for the Devils and Martin Brodeur has stopped 52 of the last 55 shots faced after relieving Johan Hedberg in a 2-1 loss to the Flyers last weekend.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Mike Smith (minor knee injury, placed on Injured Reserve); DEVILS – Zach Parise (knee, placed on Injured Reserve), Bryce Salvador (concussion, placed on Injured Reserve) and Matt Taormina (ankle, placed on Injured Reserve).
Notable Quotable: “I think our team is maturing. We have a ways to go, but we are getting better. We are not where we want to be yet, but we are getting better each and every day. This is a great team to be a part of.” – Lightning defenseman Mattias Ohlund, after helping the team earn its second shutout against the Capitals Wednesday night in which he was named the game’s first star
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