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Last 10: Tampa Bay (6-3-1); Florida (3-6-1)
Season Series: The Lightning hold a one-game edge on their in-state division rivals as the two clubs meet tonight for the second of six games this season. The Lightning picked up two points at home on Oct. 12 with a 3-2 win over the Panthers. Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos each tallied two points in the win. The Bolts and Panthers are scheduled to square off again on Jan. 16, Mar. 21 and Apr. 11 in Sunrise and on Apr. 10 at Tampa Bay.
The Big Story: Three Lightning forwards enter tonight’s game coming off season and career-high marks that were either tied or set in the team’s last game. Steven Stamkos tied a career-high with three points (2-1-3) and Brandon Bochenski had a career-high three assists, while Martin St. Louis tied a season-best 11-game point streak on Tuesday against Washington. The goaltender is hot too. Antero Niittymaki earned a win in his last appearance in relief of Mike Smith, stopping 22 of 24 shots, and also posts a career 5-2-1 record with a 2.03 goals-against average versus the Panthers with one shutout.
Team Scope: LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay wraps up its two-game home stand tonight before traveling south to take on the Panthers for the second time in three nights in what will conclude a home and home series. The Lightning are aware of the importance of picking up points with the schedule ahead of them, as tonight is the second of four consecutive meetings versus a division rival. Things got off to a good start on Tuesday against Washington, as the Lightning’s seven goals, including four in the first period, set two season-high marks. The Bolts also tallied a season-best four power play goals, two of which came from Steven Stamkos. The second-year Lightning forward ranks tied for third in the NHL with nine goals coming with the man advantage. Vincent Lecavalier, Kurtis Foster, Jeff Halpern and Stephane Veilleux also netted goals for the Lightning, as did Martin St. Louis who recorded the 250th of his career.
PANTHERS – Tonight’s game at the St. Pete Times Forum marks the second half of a back-to-back set for Florida. They lost to Washington last night, 5-4, in a shootout after being up three goals at one point. Stephen Weiss and Michael Frolik each had two points for the Cats, however they both were a minus-3. The Panthers have won just two of their last five and post a record of 3-7-2 against the rest of the Southeast this year. Florida has an 11-12-2 record on the road, while Tampa Bay owns an 11-5-5 mark at home.
Who’s Hot: - Martin St. Louis has 17 points on his current 11-game streak and Steven Stamkos has tallied four goals and six assists in his last five. Steve Downie also has five points in as many games for Tampa Bay.
- The Panthers’ Stephen Weiss has three points in his last two contests and Nathan Horton has recorded five in an equal number of games.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Todd Fedoruk (lower body, placed on Injured Reserve, out one week), Matt Smaby (upper body, day-to-day) and Mike Smith (cervical strain, day-to-day). PANTHERS – David Booth (concussion), Kenndal McArdle (upper body) and Dmitry Kulikov (lower body).
Quotable: “It was definitely exciting for everyone who got a chance to see that. Lots of goals, lots of feistiness, lots of hits and fights…it was a good effort for us. Every game is important for us now. The Eastern Conference is so tight that we can’t afford to lose lots of games.” – Lightning center Steven Stamkos after Tuesday’s game against Washington.
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