Season Series: The two teams face off for the second of four meetings on the year. The Lightning and Rangers just recently met a little more than a week ago at the St. Pete Times Forum, where Derek Stepan broke a 2-2 tie late in the third period before former Lightning forward Brad Richards added an empty-netter to earn New York a 4-2 win.
The Big Story: Steven Stamkos comes in riding an eight-game point streak, which is the longest by any NHL player this season. He’ll look to not only find the score sheet to keep the streak alive, but also to help Tampa Bay snap a season-high five-game losing skid on Thursday at Madison Square Garden, where the Rangers have won seven out of the past eight.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay continues on its four-game road trip Thursday with a matchup against the Rangers. Recently, games have started off well enough for the Lightning, they just haven’t ended with the desired result. That was the case again Tuesday when Martin St. Louis opened the scoring against the Islanders to notch his 800th career point and put Tampa Bay up 1-0. The lead, much like it had in each of the two games prior to Tuesday’s contest, fizzled and New York went on to score five unanswered goals en route to a 5-1 victory. Mathieu Garon made 29 saves on 34 shots, while his Lightning teammates mustered just 24 shots of their own. Steven Stamkos was also credited with an assist on St. Louis’ goal, giving him points in eight straight games.
RANGERS – New York wraps up a two-game home stand against the Bolts before traveling to Buffalo to take on the Sabres on Saturday. The Rangers were one of the NHL’s hottest teams when they met the Lightning in the first of four meetings a week ago, and not much has changed since. New York had its five-game win streak snapped at the hands of the Maple Leafs on Monday, losing 4-2 at home, but nonetheless has gone 12-3-0 in its past 15 games. It fell behind early in the first period against Toronto, and despite scoring two goals in the middle frame, couldn’t catch up to the Leafs who added three more goals before the night was over to hand the Rangers their first loss since Nov. 23.
Who’s Hot: Steven Stamkos is riding an eight-game point streak with five goals and six assists in that span, while Martin St. Louis has collected points in three of his past four matches and has goals in two straight. The Rangers have been led as of late by Marian Gaborik, who enters Thursday’s contest with three goals and two assists in his past four games.
Notable Quotable: “You can't wait for something good to happen, you have to make something happen. It doesn't have to be a goal. It's a good defensive play, it's a smart play. We're not getting those consistently right now.” – Martin St. Louis, on the reason for his team’s recent struggles
Connections: Rangers head coach John Tortorella served as head coach in Tampa Bay from Jun. 6, 2001, to Jun. 3, 2008. During his tenure with the Bolts, Tortorella led the Lightning to the only Stanley Cup championship in team history, compiled a 239–222–36–38 record and still stands today as the franchise’s most-winningest coach.
Center Brad Richards proved his worth in the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs for Tampa Bay, where he registered 12 goals and 26 points to lead all NHL postseason skaters on his way to capturing both the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason’s most valuable player. Richards still holds several Lightning franchise records, including a share of the regular single-season assist mark of 68, most power-play points in a single campaign (46), most assists in a single game by a rookie (3), and most goals (12) and points (26) in a single postseason campaign. He also ranks third on Tampa Bay’s all-time career scoring list with 489 points and holds the same position on the Bolts’ list of all-time postseason scorers with 47 points.
New York forward Ruslan Fedotenko had both of the Lightning’s goals in the decisive Game 7 victory over the Calgary Flames to win the Stanley Cup.
Rangers defenseman Steve Eminger spent part of the 2008-09 season with Tampa Bay, skating in 50 games with the Lightning and registering 23 points in that span. Eminger was acquired by the Lightning, from Philadelphia, in the same deal that brought Steve Downie to Tampa Bay on Nov. 7, 2008.
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