Season Series: The Lightning and Flames meet for the first and only matchup of the season. Last year Calgary won the only meeting between the clubs, earning a 4-2 victory at home.
The Big Story: Jay Feaster, General Manager of the Lightning when it won the Stanley Cup in 2004, returns to the St. Pete Times Forum for the first time serving in the same capacity for the Flames, who Tampa Bay defeated to claim its only championship in franchise history. Currently, Calgary comes in on the upswing, having won four of its past six games, but still sits 11th in the Western Conference with 30 points. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, 13th in the East, looks to break out of a stretch in which it has lost seven of its past eight games.
LIGHTNING – The Bolts conclude a two-game home stand Thursday against their ’04 Cup rivals before heading on the road for a three-game swing away from home. Even though wins have been elusive as of late for Tampa Bay, no one can accuse the team of going quietly. The Lightning climbed back from a pair of two-goal deficits on Monday against New Jersey, getting first-period tallies from Steve Downie and Blair Jones to tie the game at the intermission before Steven Stamkos added two more late to bring the Lightning to within one. It was as close as Tampa Bay would come before falling 5-4 in a game which Dwayne Roloson was relieved by Mathieu Garon after making nine saves on 12 shots in just over a period of action. The loss was the first one-goal defeat in regulation on the season for the Lightning, who prior to Monday, had a league-best record of 7-0-2 in such games.
“We showed a lot of character like we always do,” Stamkos said following the game. “We always never quit and come back. Again, we never quit, but we dug ourselves a hole and it was too big to climb out of.”
FLAMES – Calgary plays in the second match of a four-game road stretch that started off less than it had hoped after dropping a 2-1 contest in Nashville on Tuesday night. In similar fashion to the Lightning, the Flames fought back from a one-goal deficit against the Predators, but the winning-goal by Colin Wilson with 17 minutes to go sealed Calgary’s fate, while also putting an end to its three-game winning streak. Miikka Kiprusoff put in one of his best performances of the season, stopping 43 of 45 shots, but his teammates at the other end didn’t quite get the start they wanted after landing only six shots of its own through the first 20 minutes.
“The first period we were standing around watching," Calgary coach Brent Sutter said. “The plays we made were soft plays. We let them dictate the pace of the game in the first period.”
Who’s Hot: Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos snapped a three-game goalless drought with a pair on Monday that tied him with Phil Kessel for the league lead with 18. Vincent Lecavalier comes in with three points in his past two games, while Dominic Moore carries a three-game point streak into Thursday’s contest. Flames defenseman Derek Smith also has points in two straight games for Calgary.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Mattias Ohlund (knee, placed on Injured Reserve) and Martin St. Louis (facial and nasal fractures, out indefinitely). FLAMES – Alex Tanguay (flu-like symptoms), Mike Giordano (ruptured leg tendons), Henrik Karlsson (strained MCL), David Moss (foot) and Anton Babchuk (hand).
Notable Quotable: “We fought and we gave it everything we had. We wanted to give a show to our fans and we care about our fans, so we didn’t want to quit. It’s tough mentally on the players and I’m not going to point any fingers here. It’s a team sport and there are moments in a franchise, moments in a season, in segments of a season that you don’t understand why. It’s just happening this way and you have to manage it mentally. It matters how your react to it and react the right way, or you sink lower.” – Lightning head coach Guy Boucher on his team’s effort following Monday’s 5-4 loss to the Devils
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