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Lightning (12-7-2, 26 Points) vs. Rangers (12-9-1, 25 Points)
Last 10: Tampa Bay (5-5-0); New York (6-4-0)
Season Series: This is the first of four meetings between the two clubs. Last season New York took three of four victories from Tampa Bay, with the Lightning’s only win in 2009-10 coming the day after Thanksgiving.
The Big Story: The Lightning and Rangers come into tonight surging. Tampa Bay has won four in a row for the first time since Feb. 2 to Feb. 9 of last season and look to put together its first five-game streak in three years. New York, meanwhile, has won five of the last seven, including four of five on the road, where it takes on the Lightning tonight. Tampa Bay will also face off against a few familiar faces tonight, including John Tortorella, who led the team to a Stanley Cup championship in 2003-04, as well as former teammates Vinny Prospal and Ruslan Fedotenko.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay plays its final game at home tonight before heading to the nation’s capital for a Southeast Division matchup against the Capitals. The team returns home the following day to face the Panthers in the second half of a back-to-back set. Steven Stamkos scored his NHL-leading 20th goal on Monday, becoming the fastest player in Lightning team history to do so. The Lightning, however, have also received significant contributions in recent games from secondary scoring, including Teddy Purcell and Dana Tyrell who also had goals in Monday’s 3-1 win over the Bruins. Four of the team’s last five goals have come from third and fourth-line players compared to those scored by Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, who have 28 of the team’s 65 goals. Mike Smith has also been on a roll recently, earning wins in three consecutive games, which has boosted the team’s confidence and has them riding a four-game winning streak.
RANGERS – New York plays in Tampa tonight in the first contests of a three-game road trip. After a slow start in which it won just a single game in its first four contests of the season, the Rangers have turned things around recently, winning five of their last seven games. The team’s most recent victory came on Monday, as it edged out a 2-1 win over the Flames. A pair of second-period goals by Brian Boyle and Dan Girardi proved enough to negate Jarome Iginla’s tally, also in the second period, as the Rangers won for the third time out of four at home.
Who’s Hot: Mike Smith has wins in three straight and has posted a 1.83 goals-against average and a .937 save percentage in the span. Steven Stamkos also has 10 goals and 16 points in his last nine games, while Teddy Purcell is riding a three-game point streak with two goals and four points. New York’s Derek Stepan has four points in four consecutive games and Dan Girardi has collected four points in two games for the Rangers.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Simon Gagne (neck, placed on Injured Reserve), Vincent Lecavalier (hand, placed on Injured Reserve), Matt Smaby (ankle, placed on injured reserve). RANGERS – Vinny Prospal (knee), Chris Drury (finger) and Michal Rozsival (shoulder).
Quotable: “There’s a famous phrase from John Wooden that still to this day I repeat very often: ‘It’s amazing what a team can do when no one cares who gets the credit.’ That's what’s happening. No one cares who gets the credit. That’s why we have great team chemistry and on any given night somebody can be a hero and it's a different guy every night.” – Head Coach Guy Boucher, on the reason for the team’s recent success
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