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Last 10: Tampa Bay (3-6-1); Atlanta (3-6-1)
Season Series: Tampa Bay and Atlanta face off tonight in the third of six match-ups in 2009-10. This is the first at the St. Pete Times Forum this season, with the previous two matches coming at Philips Arena on Oct. 3 and Nov. 22. The clubs split decisions in those meetings, with Atlanta winning in the season opener and the Lightning countering with a win last month. Bolts forward Martin St. Louis looks to continue his success against the Southeast Division tonight, having recorded five points against the Thrashers in a pair of games this season, including a season-high three assists in the most recent meeting.
The Big Story: Martin St. Louis and Kurtis Foster have been marking the score sheet as of late for Tampa Bay, as both come in on three consecutive-game assist streaks. Foster has been the team’s best offensive blue liner in recent games, recording six points in his last five contests. In addition, goaltender Antero Niittymaki comes into tonight with a 14-0-0 career record against Atlanta.
LIGHTNING – The Lightning will aim to make it two in a row over the Thrashers in the second contest of the team’s five-game home stand that wraps up on Jan. 2. Coming off a pair of consecutive wins to conclude the longest road trip of the season, the Bolts fell to Philadelphia on Wednesday night at the Times Forum after coming back from a two-goal deficit in the second period. Defenseman Victor Hedman recorded the last of the Lightning’s two goals against the Flyers, and along with Foster, will need to continue to produce points being that forwards Jeff Halpern and Todd Fedoruk are banged up with lower body injuries. Both are listed as day-to-day. On Saturday, General Manager and Executive Vice President Brian Lawton called up defenseman Mike Lundin and goaltender Riku Helenius from the team’s AHL affiliate in Norfolk.
THRASHERS – The Thrashers come into the St. Pete Times Forum for the second match on their current seven-game trip away from Philips Arena. With the team’s goals-against average at 3.11, Atlanta currently ranks 26th in the NHL. None of the four teams with a lower mark is currently in the top eight in their respective conferences. Atlanta is coming off a 6-4 loss in Boston on Wednesday that marked the fifth consecutive game their opponent scored at least four goals.
Who’s Hot: - Martin St. Louis has a goal and five assists in Tampa Bay’s last three games, while Ryan Malone has two goals and four assists during the same span.
- Steven Stamkos has four goals in his last five games and defenseman Kurtis Foster has recorded four points in his last three.
- Atlanta’s Ilya Kovalchuk has tallied 12 points in his last eight contests, while Nik Antropov has totaled seven in his last five.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Matt Walker (lower body, day-to-day, placed on Injured Reserve), Jeff Halpern (lower body, out two weeks, placed on Injured Reserve) and Todd Fedoruk (lower body, out two weeks, placed on Injured Reserve). THRASHERS – Kari Lehtonen (back) and Mark Popovic (foot).
Quotable: “You’ve got to learn to win, I guess. These are learning experiences. But sometimes you get tired of saying it’s learning. It’s like we’re feeling the water with our toes. We’ve got to jump in. We know it’s safe, so let’s go.” – Lightning head coach Rick Tocchet
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