After playing six of their last seven games on the road, the Tampa Bay Lightning get to unpack for a while and enjoy some home cooking as they settle in for a four game home stand which commences Tuesday night when their cross-state rivals, the Florida Panthers, come to call.
This will be the second of what will eventually be six meetings between these two clubs, with the Panthers holding the advantage in the series, 1-0, after a shutout win over the Bolts six days ago in Sunrise.
The Lightning, 5-7-5, lead the Panthers, 6-9-1, in the Southeast Division by two points. Florida visits Tampa after having lost to the Detroit Red Wings last Friday night.
Interim Head Coach Rick Tocchet will be seeking his first win at the helm of the squad, who put together an aggressive effort, falling to the Carolina Hurricanes, 3-2, in a shootout Sunday afternoon.
Martin St. Louis, riding a streak which has seen him record eight points over the last eight games, leads the Lightning in that category with 13. Vincent Lecavalier holds the team lead in goals scored with seven.
Goaltender Mike Smith has done yeoman work in net for the Lightning, producing one spectacular save after another. His overall save percentage of .930 % puts him in fifth place among all NHL goalies in that grouping.
The Panthers are paced by defenseman Keith Ballard and forward Nathan Horton, both with 10 points. Netminder Craig Anderson has turned in some good work in the Panther goal, compiling a .940 save %, good enough for second in the NHL in that category.
Come early, and plan to stay late; five of the seven games the Lightning have played this season in the St. Pete Times Forum have gone to overtime.