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Tampa Bay and Columbus square off for the second and final time this season. The two clubs last met back on Dec. 17 at Nationwide Arena when the Bolts earned a 3-2 victory behind a 26-save performance from Mathieu Garon.
Steven Stamkos will be heading to All-Star Weekend later this week, but he hopes to do so while riding a four-game win streak with the Bolts. After snapping a seven-game skid, the Lightning have collected victories in three straight and look to extend the mark, while Columbus comes in looking to halt a three-game losing streak.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay will skate in its final game before the All-Star break and look to stretch its win streak to four games before resuming play on Jan. 31 against the division-rival Capitals. Two of the team’s past three wins during its current string of consecutive victories have come by a slim margin, and Saturday’s second half of a back-to-back set proved no different. The Lightning went up 3-0 against the Coyotes on goals by Steven Stamkos, Teddy Purcell and Martin St. Louis, but Phoenix came roaring back late in the game to make things interesting. After the Coyotes finally got on the board midway through the second period, Steve Downie added another goal to make it 4-1. Phoenix then scored twice in a span of 12:26 during the final period, but Dwayne Roloson stood tall in net while turning back 33 shots to get the win.
BLUE JACKETS – Columbus will finish off the second half of a back-to-back set after falling for the second time in three games to the Nashville Predators, and for the fourth time in the past five overall. After being blanked 3-0 by Nashville last Thursday, the Blue Jackets didn’t fare much better in Monday’s rematch, falling to the Predators 4-1. Rick Nash scored the lone goal for Columbus to tie it at one and keep the game close towards the midway point of the second period, but Mike Fisher’s second goal of the night at the end of the middle frame re-established Nashville’s one-goal lead and sparked a rally marked by three unanswered Predators’ goals.
Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier comes in riding a five-game point streak with two goals and eight points in that span. Martin St. Louis also has points in five consecutive games for the Bolts, while Steven Stamkos has points in six of his past seven games with four goals and seven points over that stretch. For the Blue Jackets, Antoine Vermette has points in six of his past seven games with a goal and five assists in that span.
LIGHTNING – Mattias Ohlund (knee, placed on Injured Reserve), Ryan Shannon (lower body, out 2-4 weeks, placed on Injured Reserve), Victor Hedman (concussion, out indefinitely, placed on Injured Reserve), Adam Hall (upper body, out 8 weeks, placed on Injured Reserve), JT Wyman (upper body, day-to-day), Marc-Andre Bergeron (upper body, day-to-day), Tom Pyatt (lower body, day-to-day) and Ryan Malone (upper body, day-to-day).
BLUE JACKETS – James Wisniewski (ankle, placed on Injured Reserve), Jeff Carter (shoulder, placed on Injured Reserve), Mark Letestu (hand, placed on Injured Reserve), Kristian Huselius (groin, placed on Injured Reserve), Nikita Nikitin (knee, out indefinitely) and Radek Martinek (post-concussion symptoms, out for the season).
“He's got the skills. He's got the vision. He knows where to go on the ice. But he brings the package when he's battling and his feet are moving. Some guys are a lot more complex than that. But in his case, because he has all the tools, it just comes down to that.” – Lightning head coach Guy Boucher, on scouting Bolts winger Teddy Purcell
Lightning goaltender Mathieu Garon spent two seasons in Columbus from 2009-2011, recording 22 wins in 71 games. Columbus forward Vinny Prospal appeared in 468 career games with the Lightning and ranks eighth on the team's all-time games played list.
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