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Last 10: Tampa Bay (7-2-1); Boston (2-5-3)
Season Series: The Bruins take on the Lightning in the third of four meetings this season, and the final time at the St. Pete Times Forum. The two clubs have split the first pair of games, with Boston earning a win on Dec. 2 at TD Garden and Tampa Bay countering with two points on Dec. 28 in front of their home crowd. The teams play for the final time on Mar. 25 in Boston.
The Big Story: Tampa Bay and Boston are in the midst of what appears to be the turning point in each of their respective seasons, with both clubs heading in extreme opposite directions of each other in recent games. The Lightning come in as winners in eight of the last 11, while the Bruins are coming off just their second win following a string of 10 consecutive losses. Boston sits just two points behind Tampa Bay in the East as both teams continue to battle for playoff positioning, but the Lightning have won four in a row and are 10-1-2 in the last 13 games at home.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay plays its last game in front of the home crowd before hitting the road for a pair of back-to-back games in New York, and for the final time until March, when the team returns from the Olympic break. The Bolts won for the seventh time out of the last nine with a 3-1 victory over Vancouver on Tuesday, getting goals from Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos who have combined for 16 of the team’s 22 goals over that stretch. Antero Niittymaki turned in another brilliant performance as well, backstopped by 39 saves on 40 shots to improve his record to 7-0-1 in his last eight consecutive starts. The Lightning net minder has posted a .965 save percentage and a 1.09 goals-against average in that span, while not allowing more than two goals in each of those games.
BRUINS – Following 10 consecutive losses, the Bruins have begun to turn it around by winning both of their opening contests on their current four-game road swing. After finishing atop the Eastern Conference last season with 116 points, Boston has fallen to fourth in the Northeast Division and out of the top eight in the playoff picture, but is just one spot from reclaiming a post-season position. The Bruins have scored more than two goals just once in their last 11 games, but have received help at the other end from goaltender Tuukka Rask, whose 2.01 goals-against average ranks second in the league.
- Steven Stamkos extended his career-high point streak to 10 games, totaling eight goals and as many assists over that span, and Martin St. Louis has amassed seven goals and four helpers in seven straight. Steve Downie also has five assists in the last four games for Tampa Bay, matching a career-high point streak as well.
- Boston’s Marc Savard has four assists in his last three games and Zdeno Chara has a goal and a pair of helpers, also in his last three.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – David Hale (lower body, placed on Injured Reserve). BRUINS – Johnny Boychuk (broken orbital bone) and Mark Stuart (finger surgery).
Quotable: “He kept us in the game. He’s made some big saves for us and we’ve been doing a good job playing with the lead in the third [period]. Obviously he has been the backbone of that.” – Martin St. Louis regarding the performance of goaltender Antero Niittymaki
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