Lightning (36-18-7, 79 Points) at Rangers (33-26-4, 70 Points)
Last 10: Last 10: Tampa Bay (5-3-2); New York (4-6-0)
Season Series: This is the last of four games this season between these clubs. The Lightning won the first three meetings, including one each in regulation, overtime and the shootout. Tampa Bay goes for the season series sweep tonight, which would mark the first against the Rangers since the 1996-97 season.
The Big Story: Tampa Bay will be forced to adjust back to life on the road starting today. Today’s game is Tampa Bay’s first away from home since Jan. 21. Both of these teams have been heating up lately and have been making a final push for the playoffs with their respective performances in recent games. New York has won four of the last six, while the Lightning come in with wins in two straight, outscoring opponents 10-4 in that span.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay wrapped up its NHL record-tying 12-game home stand Friday night with a 2-1 win over New Jersey, concluding the long swing with a 7-3-2 record and 16 out of a possible 24 points. It embarks on a three-game road trip starting this afternoon, which also makes back-to-back stops in New Jersey and Boston. After snapping two opponents’ respective eight-game win streaks in consecutive games, the Lightning are riding a wave of confidence that they hope will carry throughout the rest of the season. But the team’s schedule with 21 games remaining will not be favorable at times, as five of the Bolts’ next six opponents, including the Rangers, currently held playoff spots entering play yesterday.
RANGERS – New York returns home tonight following a brief two-game road swing to begin the first of a three-game home stand. The Rangers have seen a lot of ups and downs lately, which for the most part have resulted in a lack of consistency until late. New York started the month of February 0-4-1, but have turned it around recently with a 4-2-0 showing in its last six straight. Its most recent win came in a 6-0 shutout in Washington against the Capitals, which proved to be the Rangers' largest margin of victory in a shutout since they blanked the Maple Leafs 7-0 back on Jan. 19.
Who’s Hot: Martin St. Louis’ eight-game point streak is currently the second-longest active behind a 12-game from Ilya Kovalchuk of the Devils. The Lightning forward has three goals and 11 points in that span. Vincent Lecavalier also has six goals in his last eight games, with five of those coming on the power play. New York’s Henrik Lundqvist has won his last two consecutive starts and has posted a 1.50 goals-against average in that span, while former Lightning Vinny Prospal has three points in his last two games. Brandon Prust, Ryan Callahan and Mats Zuccarello also have two points in as many contests for the Rangers.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Ryan Malone (mid body, out indefinitely, placed on Injured Reserve), Mike Lundin (mid body, out indefinitely, placed on Injured Reserve) and Mattias Ohlund (lower body, day-to-day). RANGERS – Marc Staal (knee), Alexander Frolov (knee, placed on Injured Reserve), Chris Drury (knee, placed on Injured Reserve) and Derek Boogaard (concussion, placed on Injured Reserve).
Notable Quotable: “We started (the home stand) extremely strong, and we ended it extremely strong, so that’s a major proof of character and in between it was a perfect learning process for us.” - Lightning coach Guy Boucher, following a 12-game home stand in which the Lightning went 7-3-2
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