Lightning (46-25-11, 103 Points, 5th East) at Bruins (46-25-11, 103 Points, 3rd East)
Eastern Conference Final:Series tied 0-0.
Regular Season Series: Despite entering the Eastern Conference Finals with identical records and a matching point total, the Bruins took three of four games from the Lightning during the regular campaign. All of those victories, however, occurred prior to the Bolts’ acquisition of goaltender Dwayne Roloson and in succession after Tampa Bay took the first contest of the regular season series on Nov. 22.
The Big Story: Both clubs are coming off four-game sweeps of their respective second-round opponents and come into tonight riding lengthy win streaks. The Lightning have won seven games in a row, including five straight on the road, which is the best mark away from home among teams still active in postseason play, while the Bruins have victories in their last five consecutive contests. Dwayne Roloson and Tim Thomas will also face each other in goal, as both rank first and second, respectively, in goals-against average and in save percentage in the playoffs.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay will open up the first two games on the road for the third consecutive series, as it appears in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since the 2004 postseason. The Bolts fought back from a 3-1 series deficit against the Penguins and then unseated the Washington Capitals in four straight games to arrive at tonight’s game against the Bruins, who are facing the Lightning for the first time in the postseason. In addition to tying the franchise postseason record of five straight road wins, the Lightning have also won seven straight games overall, which comes one off the team’s all-time mark in the playoffs. Tonight’s game will be the club’s first in 10 days following a sweep of the division-rival Capitals more than a week ago, but after playing seven games in 11 days, the time off has been a welcomed change according to some of the players, especially Simon Gagne, who is expected to return to the lineup tonight after missing most of the second-round matchup with Washington due to injury.
BRUINS – Boston will host Games 1 and 2 tonight and Tuesday before the series shifts to Tampa Bay for a pair of games next week. Much like the Bolts, the Bruins have been riding a hot streak of their own. After ousting the Montreal Canadiens with a victory in a seventh and deciding game of the East Quarterfinals, Boston eliminated the defending Eastern Conference champion Philadelphia Flyers in four straight games and come into tonight on a five-game win streak. The Bruins will also be coming into this evening’s matchup well rested, last having played eight days ago. While the Lightning will be getting on of their star forwards back in action tonight in Simon Gagne, the Bruins will be without star center Patrice Bergeron, who suffered a concussion in the second-round series versus the Flyers.
Who’s Hot: The Lightning’s Vincent Lecavalier and Teddy Purcell each come in riding four-game point streaks with six points in each, while Martin St. Louis has collected five points in his last three. Boston’s Nathan Horton enters tonight with points in five straight games, amassing three goals and five assists in that span, and Brad Marchand has seven points in his past five games for the Bruins as well. David Krejci has also added nine points in his last four contests.
Injury Report: – Simon Gagne (upper body, day-to-day), Pavel Kubina (upper body, day-to-day) and Dana Tyrell (lower body, day-to-day). BRUINS – None.
Notable Quotable: “When you see them attack, they are ferocious. Everything is thrown at the net. Everything goes to the net. There may be some occasions where there is some peripheral stuff, but it's always a direct line. So you have a tremendous skill package and speed package up front, and you have a good disciplined system in the back.” — Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, on scouting the Lightning.