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Season Series: It’s the first of four total meetings on the year. Last season Tampa Bay swept New York in four straight games, three of which were each decided by just a single goal, including two in either overtime or the shootout.
The Big Story: Former Lightning head coach John Tortorella and one-time Bolts center Brad Richards have each made their own respective individual returns to the St. Pete Times Forum since departing the Bay Area, but now come back to take on their former club together for the first time as a head coach-player tandem after leading Tampa Bay to its only Stanley Cup championship in 2004. They’ll be joined by Rangers wing Ruslan Fedotenko, who proved to be the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals’ Game 7 hero after notching both goals in a decisive 2-1 Lightning victory over the Calgary Flames.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay, returning from a two-game road trip, plays its only home game Saturday night before heading back out of town, where it will play seven of its next nine games. After sweeping in-state rival Florida on back-to-back nights to take four points from the Southeast Division-leading Panthers, Tampa Bay has come up empty handed in each of its past two games, including its most recent outing in Detroit on Wednesday. Another relentless offensive effort erased a two-goal deficit after Steven Stamkos’ league-leading 16th goal of the season tied things at two apiece heading into the third period. Defensive mistakes, however, allowed Detroit to score twice more in the final 20 minutes to pull away and hand the Lightning their fourth loss in their last six games. Martin St. Louis also had a goal for Tampa Bay, and Dwayne Roloson, in his first start since Nov. 22, looked solid at times and made several key saves before finishing with a total of 31 on the night.
RANGERS – New York concludes a two-game road swing through the Southeast Division after battling the Hurricanes at Carolina on Thursday night. The Rangers’ own hot streak has perhaps been overshadowed in recent weeks by that of the defending-champion Bruins. New York, however, comes in on a four-game win streak and has picked up 11 victories in its past 13 overall. It picked up an additional two points on Thursday night to pull within three of the Atlantic Division-leading Flyers, following a 5-3 win at Carolina. The Rangers fell behind by one heading into the first intermission, but went on to score three unanswered goals to help them pull away in the second and ultimately earn the win. Each of New York’s five goals in the game came from a different player, and Martin Biron added 28 saves in the victory.
Who’s Hot: Steven Stamkos has 10 goals in his past 12 games, including his most recent which tied Phil Kessel for the NHL goal-scoring lead. He comes into Saturday’s contest riding a four-game goal streak, which is his longest of the season. Martin St. Louis, meanwhile, comes in with two goals and two assists in his past four matches. For New York, Marian Gaborik has three goals and three assists over his past five games.
LIGHTNING – Mattias Ohlund (knee, placed on Injured Reserve).
RANGERS – None.
Notable Quotable: “I know as a player you go fast, but you're rarely 100 percent. You're 95, 98, 93, 92 percent. So it's my job to make sure the guys are jolted, especially at this level. Eighty-two games are hard for players. We have to make sure we do whatever we can to help them and know that we're there and in the game.” – Guy Boucher, on his technique of yelling from the bench during a game to get the team going on offense
Rangers head coach John Tortorella served as head coach in Tampa Bay from Jun. 6, 2001, to Jun. 3, 2008. During his tenure with the Bolts, Tortorella led the Lightning to the only Stanley Cup championship in team history, compiled a 239–222–36–38 record and still stands today as the franchise’s most-winningest coach.
Center Brad Richards proved his worth in the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs for Tampa Bay, where he registered 12 goals and 26 points to lead all NHL postseason skaters on his way to capturing both the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason’s most valuable player. Richards still holds several Lightning franchise records, including a share of the regular single-season assist mark of 68, most power-play points in a single campaign (46), most assists in a single game by a rookie (3), and most goals (12) and points (26) in a single postseason campaign. He also ranks third on Tampa Bay’s all-time career scoring list with 489 points and holds the same position on the Bolts’ list of all-time postseason scorers with 47 points.
New York forward Ruslan Fedotenko had both of the Lightning’s goals in the decisive Game 7 victory over the Calgary Flames to win the Stanley Cup.
Rangers defenseman Steve Eminger spent part of the 2008-09 season with Tampa Bay, skating in 50 games with the Lightning and registering 23 points in that span. Eminger was acquired by the Lightning, from Philadelphia, in the same deal that brought Steve Downie to Tampa Bay on Nov. 7, 2008.
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