Lightning (40-24-11, 91 Points) vs. Senators (29-37-10, 68 Points)
Last 10: Tampa Bay (3-3-4); Ottawa (6-3-1)
Season Series: The Lightning and Senators wrap up the four-game season series tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum. Ottawa has taken two of the first three meetings, despite Tampa Bay claiming the first victory of the season between the two clubs on Jan. 8. Following the Lightning’s victory in the initial meeting, the Senators went on to win each of the next two, including a 2-1 win in Tampa Bay on Mar. 11 and a 3-2 victory in overtime just a week later.
The Big Story: Tampa Bay snapped a four-game losing skid on Saturday night, which not only gives the team some momentum coming into tonight’s game in front of the home crowd, but just as well inched them closer to clinching a playoff berth for the first time since the 2006-07 season. A win tonight in regulation paired with a Carolina regulation loss to the division-rival Capitals would help the Lightning achieve that goal. Ottawa, meanwhile, is far out of the playoff picture, but has nonetheless been one of the league’s hottest teams and have seemed to relish its role as a spoiler in recent games. The Senators have won seven of the past 11 games and have points in eight contests during that same span coming into tonight.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay will play in the first of two games at home this week. The Lightning will also face off against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday before embarking on a three-game road trip, which includes two contests against clubs from the Western Conference. The Lightning are coming off a huge win Saturday night which broke a four-game winless streak, winning 4-2 at Carolina to complete a back-to-back home and home series with the Hurricanes. Simon Gagne had two goals for the second straight night and Martin St. Louis and Dominic Moore also scored to support a 33-save effort by Mike Smith, who earned his first win since Dec. 18. The Lightning cashed in on a number of chances, including capitalizing on a two-on-one rush, getting a power-play goal off a rebound and creating turnovers, which led to half of the team’s goals. Coach Guy Boucher, as well as the players, equally acknowledged the win as a complete team effort and one it will try to replicate as it heads into the final two weeks of the regular season.
SENATORS – Ottawa plays in the rubber match of a three-game road trip through the Southeast, with tonight’s game against the Lightning coming off of Sunday’s 5-4 shootout loss to the Thrashers. The Senators fought back on two separate occasions after being down a pair of goals, but still managed to only get one point rather than two after Andrew Ladd won the game for Atlanta in the fourth round of the tiebreaker. Marek Svatos scored twice and Chris Neil and Erik Condra had goals to support a 43-save effort by Craig Anderson, who was blistered with 47 total shots on the night. The Senators have struggled to muster offense against the Lightning this season, scoring three goals only once in three meetings this season, but enter tonight’s game with three or more goals for in four of their last six contests. They’ve also picked up at least a point in three of the last four games against a Southeast Division opponent.
Who’s Hot: The Lightning’s Simon Gagne has four goals in two straight contests and six goals and 10 points in his last six games overall. Martin St. Louis also has points in eight of the last 10 games with three goals and 11 assists in that span. Vincent Lecavalier is also riding a four-game point streak with two goals and four assists. Ottawa’s Marek Svatos has three goals in his last four games and Bobby Butler has assists in three of his last four as well. Jason Spezza also has a goal and six assists in his last seven games for the Senators.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Ryan Malone (mid body, placed on Injured Reserve, out indefinitely) and Randy Jones (lower body, out indefinitely). SENATORS – Sergei Gonchar (concussion), Daniel Alfredsson (back), Matt Carkner (lower body), Peter Regin (shoulder) and Pascal Leclaire (lower body).
Notable Quotable: “Lately we've been waiting for games to come to us, and it's not going to happen no matter who you play. I think the players realized that we haven't felt like we were fighting for our lives when everybody else is. We decided we were going to work, and that is exactly how we have played all year long and how we have won our games.” – Guy Boucher, explaining on what contributed to the team’s most recent win on Saturday at Carolina.