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Last 10: Tampa Bay (5-5-0); Atlanta (4-4-2)
Season Series: The Thrashers look to knot the 2009-10 series at two apiece in the fourth of six matchups this season after the Lightning defeated Atlanta in two straight following a season-opening loss on Oct. 3. Tampa Bay has won both of its contests this year by a score of 4-3, while the Thrashers come in looking for their first win at the St. Pete Times Forum this season. Tampa Bay last beat Atlanta there on Dec. 26. The Southeast division rivals meet two more times this season, on Feb. 2 at Philips Arena and on Mar. 11 at the St. Pete Times Forum.
The Big Story: Five of the last nine meetings between the two teams have been decided by just one goal, with the Lightning outscoring their opponent 17-16 in those one-point decisions. Captain Vincent Lecavalier looks to extend his season-high six-game point streak tonight, as he comes in with three goals and seven assists in that span. He is not the only one who is hot. Goaltender Antero Niittymaki has earned wins in two of his last three starts and posts a career record of 14-0-0 against Atlanta with one shutout and a 1.86 goals-against average. He will be tough to beat, especially at home, where the Lightning have gone 5-1-1 in their last seven and have allowed just 53 goals at home, good for the third-best position in the NHL.
LIGHTNING – The Bolts go for their second straight win at home on the current swing after opening the first of four matchups with a 3-2 come-from-behind win over the Maple Leafs on Thursday. Steven Stamkos had a goal and tied a career-high three points, and Vincent Lecavalier also recorded three, extending his season-high points streak to six games. Ryan Malone scored the game-tying goal with just under five minutes to play in regulation before Martin St. Louis netted the game-winner with nine seconds remaining in overtime. On Thursday, the team claimed center Nate Thompson off waivers from the New York Islanders and reassigned center James Wright to Vancouver of the WHL.
THRASHERS – Atlanta comes into the St. Pete Times Forum for a brief one-game stint before returning to Philips Arena on Tuesday to take on the Ducks. The Thrashers are desperately seeking to end their road slump, where they have gone 2-10-2 away from home after starting 9-2-1. The Thrashers have scored 35 goals over their past 14 road games and have been shut out twice in the last six. On Thursday, the team fell to Carolina 5-2 in front of the home crowd despite crawling out of a 4-0 hole. They received goals from Colby Armstrong and Rich Peverley. In addition, they failed to take advantage of six power play opportunities and are 5-for-61 with the man advantage in their last 15 games.
Who’s Hot: Martin St. Louis has a team-best four goals and four assists in his last seven games at home and has recorded three points in his last three contests overall. Vincent Lecavalier is riding a six-game points streak in which he has tallied 10 and Steven Stamkos also has four points in his last two for the Lightning.
Atlanta’s Rich Peverley has scored two goals in two straight and Colby Armstrong and Evander Kane also have a pair of points in as many games.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Mike Smith (cervical strain, placed on Injured Reserve retro-active to Jan. 12, day-to-day). THRASHERS – Kari Lehtonen (back), Mark Popovic (foot) and Christoph Schubert (lower body).
Quotable: “We need every point we can get. We don’t want to be on the outside looking in when there are 10 games left.” – Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier
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