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Lightning (27-15-5, 59 Points) at Thrashers (23-18-7, 53 Points)
Last 10: Tampa Bay (6-4-0); Atlanta (4-5-1)
Season Series: Tonight’s game at Philips Arena marks the fifth of six matchups between the two Southeast Division rivals. Tampa Bay has swept the season series up to this point, winning all four games versus the Thrashers with one final meeting following tonight set for Sunday at the St. Pete Times Forum.
The Big Story: Tampa Bay has owned Atlanta ever since dropping the first contest of six meetings last season in the 2009-10 season opener on Oct. 3. Since then, the Lightning have gone on to win nine in a row versus the Thrashers, good for the NHL’s longest active win streak by one team over another. The last time the two clubs met, Atlanta trailed Tampa Bay by just two points as both sought sole possession of first place. Now, the Lightning have it all to themselves as they sit atop the Southeast Division with 59 points with Atlanta trailing six points behind in the third place.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay will play the first contest tonight of a two-game road swing on consecutive nights. Following tonight’s game, the Bolts travel to Sunrise to take on the Panthers tomorrow evening. After losing four of the previous six, the Lightning got back on the winning track Tuesday night, picking up another victory at home against the Blue Jackets. Steven Stamkos scored twice and pulled further ahead of the injured Sidney Crosby with his league-leading 34th and 35th goals of the season before Ryan Malone netted the game-winning goal in the fourth round of the shootout. Dwayne Roloson earned his 200th career win and captain Vincent Lecavalier also played in his 900th career game, the most of any player in franchise history.
THRASHERS – Following a brief two-game road trip, the Thrashers return home tonight to take on the Lightning in the first of two games to be played at home before rounding out the season series with Tampa Bay in the finale on Sunday at the St. Pete Times Forum. After winning three of four, Atlanta turned around only to struggle recently by losing four of the last five games. Its lone win which snapped the four-game skid came in its most recent matchup on Monday night against Florida, in which Bryan Little and Chris Thorburn scored a pair of goals 44 seconds apart in the third period to send the game into a shootout, where rookie Alexander Burmistrov ended the game with the winner past Scott Clemmensen.
Who’s Hot: Steven Stamkos has four goals in his last three games for Tampa Bay and has goals in seven of the last 12 contests overall. Victor Hedman also comes into tonight riding a career-high four-game assist streak with as many in that span, while Martin St. Louis has assists in three straight and four points on his current three-game point streak. Atlanta’s Nik Antropov has recorded an assist in two straight games.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Mike Smith (minor knee injury, day-to-day, placed on Injured Reserve); THRASHERS – Freddy Modin (upper body) and Jim Slater (concussion).
Notable Quotable: “The old saying is good teams don’t lose three games in a row. We let it slide to two. It wasn't the prettiest game, but we just wanted to snap out of that little funk, not let it go past two games. That’s been a trend this year, when we get behind the eight ball a little bit we’ve done a great job of not extending it and digging ourselves out of a hole. Hopefully it gives a little confidence and momentum as we get into this last little stretch.” – Steven Stamkos, on how his team responded to losing two straight with a 3-2 shootout win over Columbus Tuesday night
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