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Last 10: Tampa Bay (4-6-0); Florida (4-5-1)
Season Series: Tonight’s matchup between the in-state rivals is the fifth meeting of six this year between the two clubs. Florida has taken the first three of four from Tampa Bay this season, including the last three consecutive meetings. Tampa Bay is seeking its first win over the Panthers since Oct. 12, when they beat the Southeast division rivals 3-2, the team’s last victory against Florida at the St. Pete Times Forum.
The Big Story: Both Florida and Tampa Bay come into tonight with identical records and an equal number of points, tied for fourth place with 76 points. With both clubs’ final two games being against each other, and with playoff contention already a mute point, tonight’s game proves crucial in the standings in terms of positioning during this upcoming summer’s draft. Also, with tonight’s game marking the Lightning’s last of the season at home, Steven Stamkos will have one final chance to break teammate Vincent Lecavalier’s franchise record of 53 points scored at home in a single season, which was set during the 2007-08 campaign. Stamkos, currently with 51 points coming inside the St. Pete Times Forum this season, needs just three to surpass the captain.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay plays in its final home game of 2009-10 tonight, coming in as winners in two out of the last four. The team is hoping to repeat a performance of its last game, a 4-3 shootout win against the Senators, in order to finish the season’s home stand on a positive note. Teddy Purcell scored once in regulation before recording the game’s winning goal in the shootout on Thursday to draw the Lightning even with the Panthers in the standings. Martin St. Louis also scored, and Steven Stamkos added his 48th goal of the season to tie Alex Ovechkin in second place, as both players continue in their chase of Sidney Crosby for the league’s goal-scoring crown.
PANTHERS – Florida appears at the St. Pete Times Forum tonight for the team’s final road game of the season, which is also the first matchup in a home and home series that concludes in Sunrise tomorrow afternoon. Like the Lightning, the Panthers come into tonight as winners in two of their last four, but only after finishing the month of March with four consecutive losses. The club was fortunate to earn a victory on Thursday against one of the NHL’s top playoff teams, as they beat the New Jersey Devils 3-2 on Thursday. Radek Dvorak and Nathan Horton each scored in the final period to break a 1-1 deadlock after Michael Frolik put Florida on the board. Scott Clemmensen added 42 saves to win his second consecutive game over his former club.
Who’s Hot: Steven Stamkos is leading the Lightning with five points in his last four, including three goals. Martin St. Louis also has tallied five points in as many games, and Kurtis Foster has recorded assists in four of the last five.
- Florida’s Nathan Horton has a goal and two assists in his last two games for the Panthers, and Shawn Matthias has recorded a pair of points in as many contests.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – David Hale (lower body, out) and Matt Smaby (back spasms, day-to-day). PANTHERS – Tomas Vokoun (back, day-to-day), Cory Stillman (back, day-to-day), Gregory Campbell (foot, day-to-day), Byron Bitz (elbow, day-to-day) and David Booth (concussion, out).
Quotable: “We’re just playing with pride. I liked the way the guys came out with passion and with character. It was definitely nice to see.” – Lightning center Steven Stamkos following Thursday’s 4-3 shootout win over Ottawa
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