The Tampa Bay Lightning return home from their brief visit to Raleigh to face the Philadelphia Flyers tonight, in what has become the very friendly confines of the St. Pete Times Forum.
The Lightning, 17-22-10, have found home cooking to their liking of late, going 4-1-0 on their most recent home stand, including a 4-1 victory over the Flyers on January 15th.
In that contest, Tampa Bay tallied four straight goals including a penalty shot score by Vincent Lecavalier. Mark Recchi contributed two assists and netminder Mike Smith stopped 31 shots.
Tonight’s game will be the fourth and final meeting between these two clubs this season. The Lightning hold a 2-0-1 record against the Flyers to date.
Mike Smith has particularly enjoyed success against the Flyers, posting 1.98 goals-against average versus Philadelphia this season. Even beyond this season, Smith holds a 3-1-1 career record against the Flyers.
Philadelphia (25-13-9) arrives well rested after enjoying three days off in the Florida sunshine after a close loss to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, 3-2. They are currently in third place in the Atlantic Division, three points back of the New York Rangers and six behind the Division-leading New Jersey Devils.
Philadelphia center Jeff Carter is second in the NHL in goals scored with 30, just one behind Alexander Ovechkin in that category. In addition to Carter, the Flyers boast six players with 15 or more goals on the season. With that sort of firepower, it’s no wonder that Philadelphia is tied for sixth in goals scored among all NHL teams and their power play is succeeding at a 25.9 % rate, second best in the league.
Goaltender Antero Nittymaki is expected to get the call in net for the Flyers. He is 9-2-2 with a 2.49 goals-against average over his last 13 games. He has not faced the Lightning since October 25, 2007 when Tampa Bay defeated the Flyers in Tampa, 5-2.
Following tonight’s game, the Lightning head out of town for back-to-back games against the Islanders and Penguins, on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. Then they return home and settle in for a long six game home stand.