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Lightning (6-3-0, 12 Points) at Devils (5-1-3, 13 Points)
TV/Radio: Sun Sports HD; AM 970 WFLA
Thursday’s game is the first of three meetings on the year and the first of two to be held this season at the Prudential Center in Newark. Last season, the Lightning went 1-3-0 against the Devils, with the one win coming on February 26, powered by a hat trick from Martin St. Louis. The clubs will face off again on March 5 at New Jersey and on March 29 in Tampa Bay.
After winning five straight, the Lightning have dropped each of their past two contests, both by just a single goal, and look to get back on the winning track on the road where the team will attempt to overcome some recent struggles. New Jersey, meanwhile, has experienced a similar trend, but in reverse. Following a strong of four straight losses, the Devils have won two consecutive games and will seek to extend the winning streak to match a season-high three games.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay continues on its four-game road trip Thursday with the second contest of the stretch that has them playing four games in six days. The swing away from home didn’t quite start off as the team had hoped, as the Bolts fell in Philadelphia on Tuesday night, 2-1, in what was an intense, tight-checking game. Benoit Pouliot had the only goal for Tampa Bay, but albeit one that tied the game midway through the third after Philadelphia’s Tom Sestito opened the scoring at 4:25 of the second. Just 1:41 later, however, Sestito scored again to notch the game-winning goal with 8:49 left, and Ilya Bryzgalov held off a late Lightning rally effort to secure the win. Anders Lindback played another solid performance in net for Tampa Bay, turning back 22 of 24 shots.
DEVILS – New Jersey hosts Tampa Bay in the second match of its three-game homestand. The Devils bring a two-game win streak into Thursday’s contest after defeating the Islanders and Rangers, respectively, in each of the club’s past pair of games. New Jersey’s wins have come by way off offense, as the Devils have recorded three goals in each of those victories, while allowing just one goal combined in those matchups. On Tuesday, a pair of goals from David Clarkson and an additional tally from Adam Henrique led the Devils past the Atlantic-Division rival Rangers, 3-1. New Jersey took a commanding 3-0 lead into the final 20 minutes, giving up its only opposing goal to New York forward Chris Kreider late in the game. The Rangers failed to rally and get two more though, as Martin Brodeur shut the door while finishing with 24 saves.
Tampa Bay forward Steven Stamkos has points in eight of nine games on the season, recording seven goals and 16 points on the year. Benoit Pouliot also has two goals and five points in his past four games for the Lightning. Devils forward David Clarkson has three goals and four points in his past two contests and has points in all but one game this season.
LIGHTNING – Matt Taormina (Upper Body, Placed On Injured Reserve). DEVILS – None.
“I think that makes it clear why we start with our tough guys and our big guys. If you can weather most of the first period storms and get in the form of an aggressive, yet patient game, that has a tendency to give the away team an edge.” – Lightning head coach Guy Boucher, as to why he inserts the Lightning tough guys in the lineup on the road
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