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Lightning (16-10-4, 36 Points) vs. Thrashers (17-11-3, 37 Points)
Last 10: Tampa Bay (5-3-2); Atlanta (8-2-0)
Season Series: This is the third of six meetings on the season between the Southeast Division rivals. Tampa Bay took the first pair of games, splitting victories in each team’s home arena. Steven Stamkos led the Lightning to a 5-2 victory behind his second career hat trick back on Oct. 22 at Philips Arena in the last meeting.
The Big Story: Tampa Bay has won seven in a row against the Thrashers, which marks the NHL’s second-longest active win streak by one team over another. The two clubs come in with nearly identical point totals in the division standings, as tonight proves to be a crucial game for each team in terms of positioning. The Lightning look to jump the Thrashers in the standings with a win at home tonight, where the Bolts have gained points in four straight, including three wins.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay is glad to be home following a three-game road swing through Western Canada. The Lightning host the Thrashers for the first contest of a three-game home stand, which marks the first such stretch of the season that the Bolts will play more than two consecutive home games in front of their home fans. They salvaged what would have turned out to be a disappointing road trip in their last game on Saturday in Vancouver. Steven Stamkos scored twice, including the game-winner in overtime, to give the Lightning a 5-4 victory. The performance gave Stamkos three goals and four points in his last two games played coming into tonight. Teddy Purcell also tied a career-high goal total in the contest, while Brett Clark set a new career-high mark with his sixth power-play tally of the season.
THRASHERS – Atlanta concludes its three-game road trip tonight in Tampa after winning the first two games on Long Island and in Ottawa. The Thrashers have lost just two games in their last 10 and come in with four wins in their last five. They have also won three straight on the road, scoring a combined total of 12 goals in those wins. They have scored nine goals in their last two games, including in a 4-3 overtime win against Ottawa Monday night. Despite squandering a three-goal lead, Atlanta got goals from Jim Slater, Dustin Byfuglien and two from Bryan Little, including the game-winner 1:09 into the extra session.
Who’s Hot: Steven Stamkos has 21 points in 14 career games against Atlanta, his most against any NHL opponent, and has recorded at least a point in each of his last 11 games against the Thrashers. Ryan Malone has also collected 10 points during his seven-game point streak, while Randy Jones has three points in as many contests. Atlanta’s Bryan Little has five points in his last four, while Chris Thorburn has three points in his last two contests.
Notable Quotable: “Everyone can say it doesn't affect you, but physically and mentally it's tough. We fought through it, and it's huge. Now we come home, and we are tough to beat at home.” – Steven Stamkos, on the challenging road schedule and his thoughts on returning home to play the Thrashers
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