Season Series: The Bolts and Sharks square off for the first of two meetings on the year. San Jose will pay a return visit to Tampa Bay on Feb. 16 to conclude the season series. Last season, the Sharks took the only matchup by a 5-2 score on home ice.
The Big Story: Tampa Bay is coming off consecutive wins for the first time since sweeping a home and home set against the Panthers back on Nov. 25 and 26. Wednesday’s game is also the first of two on the road before the Christmas break for the Lightning, who seek to extend their winning streak to three games prior to Friday’s finale in Colorado as well as finish the stretch on a high note before returning to action next week.
LIGHTNING – After a brief one-game stint in Columbus on Saturday, the Bolts traveled home Sunday before opening a two-game road trip that begins in San Jose and concludes on Friday against Colorado. The team is starting to look like the one that made it to within one game of the Stanley Cup Finals last spring, earning two straight victories, including Saturday’s matchup against the Blue Jackets by a 3-2 score. Blair Jones and Eric Brewer each scored for Tampa Bay, which held a pair of two-goal leads throughout the contest, but allowed Columbus to come within one each time. Steven Stamkos’ second consecutive game-winner at an opportune time, however, gave the Lightning a 3-1 lead in the second period, and insurance when Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash made it 3-2 just 2:09 later. Mathieu Garon, in his first return to Columbus since being acquired by Tampa Bay, made 26 saves including all eight in the third period to hold his former club scoreless in the final frame and earn the win.
SHARKS – San Jose is a third of the way through on its current six-game home stand, which by all accounts, has gotten off to a good start. The Sharks rebounded from a stretch in which it lost five of six by earning two straight victories to open up the home stand at HP Pavillion last Thursday. After defeating Colorado 5-4 in the first match, it earned the second of the two victories on Saturday, again by a close a margin in a 3-2 win against Edmonton. The teams matched each other goal for goal through the first 40 minutes, with both Martin Havlat and Joe Thornton tallying for the Sharks. Patrick Marleau scored the only goal of the final frame, the game-winner, and Antti Niemi made 23 stops to claim victory.
Who’s Hot: Steven Stamkos notched the game-winning goal for the second straight time on Saturday at Columbus and has four goals and seven points in his past three games. Both Ryan Malone and Dominic Moore come in with points in four of their past five, while Blair Jones is currently riding a career-high three-game point streak. San Jose’s Patrick Marleau is riding a three-game point streak with a pair of goals and an assist in that span, and Joe Thornton has picked up points in three consecutive games as well, but with a goal and two assists during that stretch.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Mattias Ohlund (knee, paced on Injured Reserve), Martin St. Louis (facial and nasal fractures, placed on Injured Reserve), Nate Thompson (lower body, day-to-day) and Matt Gilroy (lower body, day-to-day). SHARKS – Douglas Murray (hand, day-to-day) and Jim Vandermeer (upper body, placed on Injured Reserve.
Notable Quotable: “He's definitely more vocal right now, but he leads by example, by how he plays and he plays hard. He's scored some big goals for us and taken his game to a new level.” – Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier on the leadership qualities of teammate Steven Stamkos.
Connections: Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle skated in 394 career games with the Lightning from 2001-2008 and ranks ninth on the team's all-time scoring list with 253 points...Boyle was traded to San Jose in a deal that brought Matt Carle and Ty Wishart to Tampa Bay...Carle was then sent to Philadelphia in exchange for current Lightning forward Steve Downie, while Wishart was eventually dealt to the Islanders in exchange for current Bolts net minder Dwayne Roloson.
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