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Season Series: The intra-state division rivals compete for the fourth time of six total meetings on the season. After Florida took each of the first two matchups, including one at home and one on the road, Tampa Bay responded with a 4-3 shootout win in the most recent meeting back on Nov. 6 in Sunrise.
The Big Story: This is the second home and home series of the year between the two clubs, who will face off again on Saturday at the St. Pete Times Forum. Wins have not come easy for either club when facing each other as of late, as six of the past eight matches between Tampa Bay and Florida have been decided in extra time. The Panthers have emerged on the winning side of a lot of those, as the Bolts have dropped four of the last six that have gone past regulation, including three of five in the shootout.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay plays in the first match of a home and home series that begins in Sunrise and wraps up in Tampa Bay just 24 hours later. After winning six straight at the Times Forum, Tampa Bay has dropped its past two at home and four of the past five overall. The most recent defeat came Tuesday when captain Vincent Lecavalier had the lone goal in a 7-1 loss to the Maple Leafs. Lecavalier’s goal was a result of a solid first-period effort for the Lightning, who held a 10-4 shot advantage through the contest’s first 16 minutes and generated numerous good scoring chances. A pair of costly penalties, however, late in the opening period turned things around after it helped Toronto score twice on the power play to take a 3-1 lead into the intermission. The Maple Leafs would go on to score four more unanswered goals, eventually chasing Dwayne Roloson from net after he made 15 saves on 21 shots.
“We came out in the first period and I thought we had a really good period,” Lecavalier said. “We were making a lot of good plays, but obviously our penalties put us in a really bad spot. We got away from it in the second period. We gave them opportunities to score and they took advantage of it.”
PANTHERS – Florida will host their in-state division rivals before the Lightning return the favor on Saturday in Tampa Bay. The Panthers come in on a three-game win streak and look to cap a perfect four-game home stand if they can pull out an additional victory against the Bolts Friday night. Its most recent win came on the eve of Thanksgiving as Florida earned a 2-1 win over the New York Rangers.
Jason Garrison had a goal and despite allowing the tying-tally early in the second period, Kris Versteeg notched the game-winner to keep the Panthers’ winning trend in tact.
Who’s Hot: Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos has goals in five of his past eight games and also has recorded an assist in three of his past four outings. Vincent Lecavalier also has recorded three goals in as many games entering Friday’s contest. For the Panthers, Stephen Weiss has six points in his past three games and Tomas Fleischmann is riding a three-game point streak with two goals and three assists in that span. Kris Versteeg also has points in three straight outings, recording three goals and as many assists.
PANTHERS – Marcel Goc (upper body), Scott Clemmensen (lower body), Mikael Samuelsson (groin, placed on Injured Reserve), Scottie Upshall (upper body, placed on Injured Reserve) and Matt Bradley (upper body, placed on Injured Reserve).
Notable Quotable: “Right now he's got a lot of games in a row, and he's going to get a break. He's had a breather and practices before where he's had success, and all of a sudden he clears his mind and he's back on track. This is a great opportunity for him to master his game.” – Guy Boucher, on his plans to rest goaltender Dwayne Roloson in hopes of turning around his game
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