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Improved Lightning visit struggling Predators

Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 4:48 AM

Peter Pupello - Lightning Beat Reporter

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Improved Lightning visit struggling Predators
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Nashville Predators

TV/Radio: Sun Sports; AM 970 WFLA

MORE COVERAGE

Season Series: This is the only meeting of the season between the two teams. Last season, Nashville came into Tampa Bay and held off a late rally by the Lightning to earn a 4-3 victory. Tampa Bay owns the all-time series with an 8-5-2 record against the Predators, but has dropped each of the past two matchups dating back to the 2009-10 season.

The Big Story: Tampa Bay is riding a three-game winning streak, which to date, is the club’s longest of the young season. Nashville, meanwhile, has not won more than two consecutive games since the first pair of matches to open the season. The Predators come limping into their bout with the Bolts, having lost five of their past six.

Team Scope:

LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay wraps up a brief two-game road swing with the first and only meeting against the Predators in Nashville. After a shaky start to open the season, the team has won three in a row and is coming off a home and home series sweep of the Buffalo Sabres. Tampa Bay overcame an early two-goal deficit on Tuesday night, scoring four unanswered times, to complete the comeback. Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos, Ryan Malone and Nate Thompson each had goals, but for a third straight game, Lightning goaltender Mathieu Garon proved to be the catalyst in the win. After allowing a pair of early goals just 35 seconds apart to open the contest Garon rebounded to make 36 saves, including many which kept Buffalo at bay and afforded his team the chance to come back. Tuesday’s win also marked the ninth game of the season for rookie forward Brett Connolly, which is the last before the clock starts ticking on his three-year, entry-level contract should he remain with the team. News came late Tuesday night from General Manager Steve Yzerman, however, who confirmed that Connolly will in fact remain with the club rather than being sent back to juniors.

PREDATORS – Nashville faces off against Tampa Bay in the second of three games on the club’s current home stand. After starting the season off to a promising 2-0-0 start, the Predators went on to lose four in a row before getting back on the winning track with a 2-0 shutout victory over Calgary on Saturday. The good fortune didn’t last long though, as the Predators stumbled once again in a 3-1 loss to San Jose in its most recent outing on Tuesday to lose for the fifth time in six games. Rookie Craig Smith scored the lone goal for Nashville to tie the game at one apiece, but San Jose scored twice unanswered to take the contest. Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne, making his eighth consecutive start of the season, made 33 saves.

Who’s Hot: Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos each come in riding four-game point streaks for Tampa Bay, while Martin St. Louis has registered at least a point in each of his past three matches. Marc-Andre Bergeron has also registered at least one point in six of his past seven games for the Bolts. Nashville’s Craig Smith, who had a goal Tuesday night versus San Jose, comes in with two points in as many games for the Predators.

Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Mattias Ohlund (knee, placed on Injured Reserve); PREDATORS – Martin Erat (upper body).

Notable Quotable: “You just have to battle through. The easiest thing to do is to quit, and for sure we didn't do that. Obviously we are not proud of our start. We had a terrible start and the first five or 10 minutes none of us were playing well and we made a lot of mistakes. But we stuck with the game plan and battled through to get the win.” – Lightning goaltender Mathieu Garon, on rebounding from a slow start in Tuesday’s 4-3 win over Buffalo

INSIDE THE SERIES:
Tampa Bay is 8-5-2-0 in the all-time series against the Predators, but has dropped each of the past two meetings dating back to the 2009-10 season…Overall the clubs have split the previous four matchups with two wins each…The Bolts are 5-3-0-0 all-time versus Nashville in the Predators' home arena.

OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS:
Tampa Bay comes into tonight riding a three-game win streak, its longest of the season...Nashville, after winning each of its first two games to open the season, has since lost five of the last six heading into tonight’s game versus the Lightning.

THE GOAL STANDARD:
With a goal in his last game on Tuesday night at Buffalo, Steven Stamkos now has 100 goals since the start of the 2009-10 season, which are the most of any NHL player. With four points in three career games versus Nashville, Stamkos is also the only player on the Tampa Bay’s roster tonight to average more than a point per game against the Predators.

BEST OFFENSE? DEFENSE:
Coming into tonight, the Lightning have five different defensemen who have scored a goal this season, which are the most on any team in the NHL entering tonight...The eight goals scored by the Bolts defensemen are also the most by any team's blueline corps this season.

BLOCK PARTY
Lightning defenseman Brett Clark comes into tonight's game leading all NHL skaters with 31 blocked shots. The Lightning, as a team, also come in with 150 blocked shots on the season, which ranks first among all NHL clubs.

A large part of the Lightning’s success has been a result of closing the gaps on defense, which not only has limited opponents’ shots and chances at one end, but also has created solid offensive opportunities off turnovers for the Lightning at the other. Case in point, Ryan Malone’s game-winning goal to cap off Tuesday’s 4-3 win at Buffalo on Tuesday night came directly as a result of Brett Clark’s blocked shot at the top of the point.

Speaking of scoring goals, captain Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos come in riding four-game point streaks, which comes one off tying the team season-high to this point that was initially set by Marc-Andre Bergeron from October 10-20.

Lecavalier and Stamkos are tied for the team lead with four goals each through the first nine games. That might not seem like much, but consider that last season, Lecavalier did not score his fourth goal of the season until December 23 in the Lightning’s 35th game of the season.

Stamkos, meanwhile, after as much of a slow start a player can have in a short nine-game span, now has goals in all but one of his past four games. He had just one goal in Tampa Bay’s first five games to start the season.

Other Bolts who are hot at the moment include Martin St. Louis, who has assists in three straight games, and Marc-Andre Bergeron, who has registered at least a point in six of his past seven games. St. Louis will skate in his 482nd consecutive game tonight, which is good for the NHL’s fourth-longest active streak.

Goaltender Mathieu Garon has allowed four goals in his 180:00 played and is one of six current NHL goaltenders entering play today with both three or more wins and a goals-against average below 1.80.

As far as milestones go, Teddy Purcell is expected to appear in his 200th career game tonight.

2011-2012 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Oct 27 '11TBL 3 at NSH 5N. Spaling
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
M. Bergeron1021012+1200
S. Stamkos10639+5200
M. St. Louis10369+3600
T. Purcell9369+2220
V. Lecavalier10437+31012
R. Malone10336+01111
B. Clark10224-2400
N. Thompson10224-2400
D. Moore10134-11400
B. Connolly10033+3800
M. Gilroy8033+1400
R. Shannon5033+0000
V. Hedman10202+3800
P. Kubina10112+11201
A. Hall10112-1200
S. Downie10112-64210
B. Gervais2112+1000
E. Brewer10011-2600
T. Pyatt6011-1000
B. Jones6011-2400
M. Ritola4000-2600
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
M. Garon73-2-1151902.43.921
D. Roloson51-2-1181374.54.869
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
S. Kostitsyn9358+0600
C. Smith9358+0620
D. Legwand9268+1210
M. Halischuk9224+1201
C. Wilson9224-3910
M. Fisher2224+1000
R. Suter9213+3610
N. Spaling9123-4601
K. Klein9123-5001
S. Weber9033+31200
J. Blum9022-4200
J. Hillen7022+0600
J. Smithson9101-3600
P. Hornqvist8101-2600
N. Bergfors4101-1201
J. Tootoo9011+01300
B. Geoffrion9011+0400
B. McGrattan6011+1700
C. O'Reilly5011-2200
T. Laakso7000-1400
F. Bouillon2000-1000
M. Ekholm2000-1000
Z. Stortini1000+0700
M. Erat1000-2000
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
P. Rinne94-4-1212782.51.924
A. Lindback10-0-01241.50.958