Lightning (35-18-7, 77 Points) vs. Devils (26-30-4, 56 Points)
Last 10: Tampa Bay (5-3-2); New Jersey (9-0-1)
Season Series: New Jersey has taken a two-game season series lead over Tampa Bay after winning the first two meetings on Jan. 9 and Jan. 14, earning a victory in each team’s home arena. Tampa Bay is looking to gain ground in the third of four total meetings tonight, with one more left to play on Mar. 2 at New Jersey.
The Big Story: Tampa Bay had no trouble snapping one team’s eight-game win streak, winning 8-3 against Phoenix Wednesday night. It will have to do it again tonight if they want to keep pace ahead of the Capitals atop the South Division. New Jersey has been the hottest team in the league since the calendar turned, with a lot of their success coming as a result of Jacques Lemaire’s job behind the bench. The Devils have gone 16-1-2 in their last 19 games and have shot up the standings as they are still vying for the eighth and final playoff spot. They come into tonight with eight straight wins and have won the last five in a row on the road.
LIGHTNING – The NHL record-tying 12-game home stand finally comes to an end tonight, as Tampa Bay hosts the Devils in its last home game until Mar. 5. Through 11 games during the swing, the Lightning have gone 6-3-2 and have collected two more wins than any other team in NHL history previously did during a home stand of 10 games or more. An 8-3 win Wednesday against Phoenix snapped a three-game winless streak and saw Teddy Purcell record his first career hat trick, as 13 different Lightning players found the score sheet. Vincent Lecavalier tied a career-high five points and Martin St. Louis extended his points streak to seven games. Tampa Bay’s eight goals tied a season-high, while its five in the first period alone marked a new team season record. It also went three-for-four on the power play. On Thursday, general manager Steve Yzerman bolstered the Bolts in net, acquiring goaltender Curtis McElhinney from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Dan Ellis.
DEVILS – New Jersey plays in the third game of four on its current road trip, with the swing away from home wrapping up Sunday in Sunrise as the Devils conclude the tour with a meeting against the Panthers. New Jersey comes in on an eight-game win streak and has had superb goaltending during that entire span, allowing no more than two goals in each of those wins. Johan Hedberg has won each of his last seven consecutive starts, allowing a total of a single goal through the last three, which includes two shutouts.
Who’s Hot: Martin St. Louis is riding a seven-game point streak with 10 points in that span, including eight assists. Vincent Lecavalier also has 11 points in his last seven games for the Lightning. Five other players also have two points in their last two games for the Bolts. New Jersey goaltender Johan Hedberg has posted two shutouts in his last three games, all wins, and Ilya Kovalchuk has recorded seven goals and 13 points in his last 11 contests.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Ryan Malone (mid body, out indefinitely) and Mike Lundin (mid body, out indefinitely). DEVILS – Matthew Corrente (shoulder, out 2-4 weeks), Bryce Salvador (concussion), Matt Taormina (ankle) and Zach Parise (knee, out three months).
Notable Quotable: “I think that was my first hat trick since street hockey, when I was 10 or 12 years old. It felt good. That was pretty cool to see the hats coming down from the fans. To score a hat trick, then get two points, that’s a pretty special night.” – Teddy Purcell, following his first career hat trick in an 8-3 win over the Coyotes
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