Lightning (38-22-8, 84 Points) at Panthers (27-32-9, 63 Points)
Last 10: Tampa Bay (4-4-2); Florida (2-6-2)
Season Series: The in-state division rivals will face off in the fifth of six total meetings on the year. The clubs will wrap up the series on Apr. 8 at Tampa Bay. The Panthers have taken three of the first four from the Bolts this season, however Tampa Bay has points in all but one meeting this season. Florida shutout Tampa Bay 6-0 in the first matchup back on Oct. 16 and earned a shootout win in Tampa Bay Nov. 27. The Lightning countered with a shootout win of their own down in Sunrise in late January, only to fall in yet another tiebreaker in the most recent meeting on Feb. 19.
The Big Story: Tampa Bay has the NHL’s most wins in one-goal games this season with 22. That’s bound to happen when a team plays as many one-goal decisions as the Lightning have. Twenty-one of Tampa Bay’s last 35 games have all been by a single goal, a stretch in which it has gone 13-4-4. That could bode well for the Bolts, as four of the last six meetings between the clubs have gone to a shootout. Two additional games dating back to the beginning of last season have also been decided by just one goal, but in regulation. With the Capitals idle Saturday, the Lightning have a chance to draw within two points in the division. Tampa Bay had a lengthy run this season leading the Southeast, but has played inconsistent hockey of late while Washington extended its winning streak to seven games on Friday.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay opens up a four-game road trip tonight in Sunrise before traveling north of the border to take on three Northeast opponents beginning Monday. Tampa Bay did not conclude its home stand in the manner it would have liked, falling 2-1 to the Senators last night. Martin St. Louis and brought the Bolts to within one after a lack-luster 40 minutes to open the game allowed Ottawa to take an early 2-0 lead. Dwayne Roloson made 20 saves and Vincent Lecavalier had a career-high 12 shots in a late flurry, but Curtis McElhinney, who spent a total of four days with the Lightning before being picked up on waivers by the Seantors, turned aside 34 shots to earn a win in his Ottawa debut.
PANTHERS – Florida is in the midst of a season-long seven-game home stand that concludes next week before the team finally hits the road again. The Panthers have picked up points in two of three games thus far during the stretch, with their only loss in regulation coming to the Ottawa Senators by a 2-1 score on Thursday. Erik Karlsson scored twice for the Senators who held onto a late lead, thanks in part to additional support from goaltender Craig Anderson. Clay Wilson scored at 15:47 of the third to spoil the shutout for the Ottawa goaltender, but Anderson still came away with 25 saves and a win.
Who’s Hot: The Lightning’s Martin St. Louis has goals in two straight. He, along with Teddy Purcell, have been major factors in the scoring as of late, as St. Louis has two goals and two assists in his last four games, while Purcell has a goal and three assists in that span. Steven Stamkos also brings in a three-game point streak. Florida has received contributions from Clay Wilson, who has two goals in as many games, as well as Michal Repik who has points in three straight. Niclas Bergfors also has two assists in his last two games.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Ryan Malone (mid body, out indefinitely, placed on Injured Reserve), Steve Downie (lower body, day-to-day) and Randy Jones (lower body, out indefinitely). PANTHERS – Alexander Sulzer (oblique, day-to-day), Scott Timmins (concussion, day-to-day), Ryan Carter (back, placed on Injured Reserve), Jack Skille (knee, placed on Injured Reserve), Shawn Matthias (ankle, placed on Injured Reserve), Evgeny Dadonov (hand, placed on Injured Reserve) and Rostislav Olesz (knee, placed on Injured Reserve).
Notable Quotable: “We have to play a full 60 minutes. Every point is as valuable no matter who you are playing against.” – Mike Lundin, following last night’s 2-1 loss to the Senators