The Big Story: The teams come in with similar results as of late. Tampa Bay has won four of the past six, while Chicago enters as winners in six of its last eight. Friday’s game at the St. Pete Times Forum should prove to be a tough road test for the Blackhawks. Chicago has won just one more game than it has lost away from home this season, but Tampa Bay comes in with three straight wins in its own barn. The Lightning earned shutouts in two of those victories and allowed just a single goal in the other.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay returns home to face the Blackhawks for a brief one-game home stand before traveling to Florida to face the division-rival Panthers on Sunday. The Lightning come in to the tilt with Chicago with four wins in their past six games, but dropped its most recent contest on Tuesday night at Carolina. Teddy Purcell notched the game’s first goal to open the scoring, but three consecutive goals by the Hurricanes quickly erased the one-goal deficit and put Tampa Bay in a hole of its own. If there was one bright spot from the defeat, it was the play of Brett Connolly, who scored the first goal of his NHL career to bring the score to 3-2 with five minutes to go in regulation. Just when it seemed Tampa Bay gained momentum, Carolina’s Chad LaRose added insurance down at the other end just 54 seconds later. The strong push towards the end of the game struck head coach Guy Boucher as a positive takeaway from the match, but he also expressed his dismay at the Bolts’ lackluster start which saw them get outshot 19-7 in the first period and fall behind midway through the second, leading to a tough practice on Wednesday at the St. Pete Times Forum.
BLACKHAWKS – Chicago wraps up a two-game road swing through Florida with the second of back-to-back games coming against the Lightning. The Blackhawks come into tonight’s game as one of the league’s hottest teams, having won eight of 12 total games this season. The victorious trend continued last night in the first half of a back-to-back series as the Blackhawks earned a 3-2 shootout win over the Panthers down in Sunrise. Chicago surrendered a two-goal lead near the beginning of the second period, allowing Florida to score twice and force overtime before Patrick Kane emerged with the game-winner in the shootout. Chicago will have to use that same scoring prowess that has them fifth in the league with 36 goals scored to continue the hot streak, but will face a tough test against the Bolts as Tampa Bay has allowed just a single goal in its past 180-plus minutes of play at home.
Who’s Hot: Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos had a six-game point streak snapped on Tuesday at Carolina, but nonetheless comes in with five goals and seven points over his past seven games. Marc-Andre Bergeron increased his team-leading point total at 13 as well on Tuesday, as he comes with points in eight of his past 10 games. Vincent Lecavalier also has points in six of his past seven, including two straight. Chicago’s Viktor Stalberg has three goals in as many games, while Nick Leddy has a two-game point streak with four points each over that span.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Mattias Ohlund (knee, placed on Injured Reserve); BLACKHAWKS – Duncan Keith (hand).
Notable Quotable: “The number one thing is competitiveness, who wants it most. Everything we did is about doing it right the first time. That was perfect. It's just what we needed. The assistant coaches said to me, 'We're accomplishing just what we wanted.” – Lightning head coach Guy Boucher, commenting on a tough practice following Tuesday’s 4-2 loss at Carolina
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