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Last 10: Tampa Bay (5-4-1); Florida (4-5-1)
Season Series: The Lightning and Panthers have split two games of six this season, with a win coming for each team at the St. Pete Times Forum. The Lightning took a one-game advantage in the season series back on Oct. 12, led by Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos who each had two points. The Panthers evened things up, however, on Thursday with a 3-2 come-from-behind win. The in-state division rivals face off again on Mar. 21 and Apr. 11 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise and on Apr. 10 at Tampa Bay.
The Big Story: In its last two games, Tampa Bay has converted half of its power play opportunities, going 4-for-8 with the man advantage. The Lightning could extend that mark as they face the Panthers tonight who carry the second-most amount of power play goals allowed at home with 20. That’s good news for the Bolts, and especially Martin St. Louis, who is tied for first place in the NHL with Washington’s Mike Green with 22 points on the power play. St. Louis’ most recent goal, in fact, came with the man advantage in a 7-4 win over the Capitals on Tuesday night. In addition, the last four matchups between Tampa Bay and Florida have been decided by one goal. The Lightning have won their last two games at the BankAtlantic Center in a shootout.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay comes into the BankAtlantic Center to wrap up a home and home series against Florida, while also signaling the start of the team’s three-game road trip, which makes stops in Carolina and New York City on back-to-back nights during the early part of the week. The Bolts fell to the Panthers on Thursday at the St. Pete Times Forum, surrendering a one-goal lead approximately halfway through the third period. The Lightning are 13-2-1 when leading after two periods this season. Antero Niittymaki made 26 saves on 29 shots against and posts a 5-3-1 all-time career record against Florida with a 2.14 goals-against average and one shutout. Mike Smith is listed as day-to-day with a cervical strain suffered Tuesday against Washington, prompting General Manager Brian Lawton to call up goaltending prospect Dustin Tokarksi from Norfolk of the AHL.
PANTHERS – Florida has won two of its last three and will square off with the Lightning tonight in its second-to-last home game before hitting the road for two games beginning Jan. 20 at New Jersey. Cory Stillman and Rostislav Olesz notched a pair of third-period goals to lift the Panthers on Thursday to their first win on the year against Tampa Bay. Tomas Vokoun made 28 of 30 saves to earn the Panthers at least a point for the third consecutive game. The Panthers will try to make it four tonight at the BankAtlantic Center, but might be at a disadvantage, as Florida is just one of five teams in NHL with a losing record (7-8-6) in front of the home crowd.
Who’s Hot: Martin St. Louis has tallied 17 points in his last 12 and Jeff Halpern has scored a goal in two consecutive games. Alex Tanguay also has three assists in his last two contests, while Vincent Lecavalier has posted a goal and a pair of helpers in his last two as well.
- Stephen Weiss and Nathan Horton have four and three points, respectively, in their last three games and Michael Frolik has amassed a goal and two assists in his last two.
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), Dmitry Kulikov (lower body) and Nick Tarnasky (lower body).
Quotable: “We wanted to get the ball rolling. We played in our 46th game and we’re on the downswing now toward 82. You’ve got to get on a roll if you're going to challenge for that playoff spot.” – Lightning defenseman Kurtis Foster
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