Lightning (37-18-7, 81 Points) at Devils (27-31-4, 58 Points)
Last 10: Tampa Bay (5-3-2); New Jersey (9-1-0)
Season Series: This is the last of four meetings on the season. The two clubs met most recently five days ago in Tampa Bay, where the Lightning claimed their first victory of the season with a 2-1 win after the Devils won the first pair of meetings on Jan. 9 and Jan. 14, including one each in each team’s home arena.
The Big Story: Both clubs come in having won three of their previous four games, while each team’s last two straight contests have been decided by just a single goal. Tampa Bay is 4-1-2 in its last seven games and head into the final full month of the regular season tonight on the verge of clinching its first postseason berth in four seasons. New Jersey, on the other hand, is 6-1-0 in its last seven, with its only loss in that span coming to the Lightning, as it makes a final push for the eighth playoff spot.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay plays in the rubber match of a three-game road swing tonight, which wraps up tomorrow night in Boston in the last half of a back-to-back set. The Lightning will play on consecutive nights for the first time since late January, when it won both contests against Atlanta and Florida. Dwayne Roloson has proved a big reason for the Bolts’ success lately, as he continues to shut down opponents in close games. He has allowed just a single goal in each of his last two contests, while preserving a pair of one-goal leads in the final period, first on Friday in a 2-1 win over the Devils and again on Sunday in a win over the Rangers by the same score. Amidst a three-game win streak, head coach Guy Boucher has been most pleased with his team’s ability to be able to win tight games, a trait he says is the result of his team’s character.
DEVILS – New Jersey opens up a two-game home swing tonight against the Lightning and will hit the road over the weekend in a showdown on Long Island. The Devils were riding a 16-1-2 wave and an eight-game win streak when they last met the Lightning last Friday night. While the stretch of consecutive wins came to an end, the loss to Tampa Bay was just a minor speed bump in the recent run to the postseason New Jersey has enjoyed since Jan. 9. It rebounded from Friday’s loss to Tampa Bay only to gain two more points in another 2-1 decision versus the Panthers on Sunday, which gave the Devils their 17th win in the last 21 games played. They’ve all been close, as eight of the club’s last nine games have all been decided by just single goal, in which the Devils have scored no more than three and given up no more than two goals in all but one of those games.
Who’s Hot: Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis has the NHL’s longest active points streak at nine games with four goals and 13 points over that span, while Vincent Lecavalier has seven goals in his last nine games, with six of those coming on the power play. Steve Downie has an assist in two straight as well for the Bolts. New Jersey’s Ilya Kovalchuk had his 12-game points streak snapped Sunday versus Florida, but still has seven goals and as many assists in his last 13 games. Mark Fayne also has points in three of his last four games, including a goal in the last meeting against the Lightning.
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). DEVILS - Matthew Corrente (shoulder, out 2-4 weeks), Bryce Salvador (concussion), Matt Taormina (ankle) and Zach Parise (knee, out three months).
Notable Quotable: “For us, this is the last stretch. It’s all about the details now and what we want to do. We’ve worked all year to get here and now this is the time.” – Lightning head coach Guy Boucher, on the team’s mindset as it heads into the final full month of the regular season
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