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Lightning (6-6-1, 13 Points) at Panthers (4-6-3, 11 Points)
TV/Radio: Sun Sports HD; AM 970 WFLA
This is the second of five meetings between the Southeast Division rivals. The Bolts beat the Panthers back on January 29, a game in which four different Lightning players registered a goal and an assist each, while Anders Lindback made 28 saves.
Both teams are looking to overcome recent struggles in order to climb back up the top of the Southeast Division standings. Tampa Bay comes in riding a six-game winless streak, while Florida has lost each of its past three consecutive games.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay held an optional skate in Brandon Friday morning before chartering a flight to Sunrise for Saturday’s afternoon matinee against the Panthers. Despite a couple of valiant and exciting comeback efforts in each of their past two games, the Bolts have still come up short, looking to overcome a winless streak that has now reached six games. On Thursday, the Lightning roared back from a 4-1 deficit, only to fall 4-3 to the Washington Capitals. That loss, though, was preceded by Tuesday night’s effort, in which Tampa Bay scored three times in the final six minutes against the Canadiens to force overtime and collect a point before falling in a shootout. Head coach Guy Boucher has said he has liked the effort, along with the fight, resiliency and character his team has shown, although he emphasized the need to cut down on costly mistakes that have stemmed from players being impatient with the puck.
PANTHERS – Florida skates in the second-to-last contest of a four-game home stand, which wraps up Monday against the Maple Leafs. Like the Lightning, the Panthers have struggled recently, going winless in each of the team’s past three games. Although the Panthers’ scoring has dipped recently, lighting the lamp only five times in their past three games, a lot of the team’s shortcomings have been due to inconsistent play and injuries. With that said though, Florida has also been able to keep things close and earn a few points in the standings, as five of its past six games have each been decided by one goal, while four of those six have been decided in either overtime or the shootout.
LIGHTNING – Matt Taormina (Upper Body, Placed On Injured Reserve) and Ryan Malone (Lower Body, Placed On Injured Reserve). PANTHERS – Kris Versteeg (Upper Body, Day-To-Day), Ed Jovanovski (Knee, Placed On Injured Reserve), Michael Caruso (Wrist, Placed On Injured Reserve), Scottie Upshall (Ankle, Placed On Injured Reserve) and Sean Bergenheim (Undisclosed).
Panthers forward Sean Bergenheim spent the 2010-11 season with the Lightning and played an integral role in the team’s lengthy postseason run throughout the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Tampa Bay ranks seventh in the league as a team in faceoff percentage at 52.1 percent. Tampa Bay has scored 39 goals over their past nine games, while the Panthers have been shutout in two of their past three games. Vincent Lecavalier ranks seventh in the NHL with 147 faceoff wins, while Adam Hall has won 17 of his past 21 faceoffs over the past three games. Martin St. Louis has tallied a goal and 13 assists over his past 10 games and leads the NHL with 15 assists.
“We keep digging ourselves a hole. We just have to do a better job of making it a closer game and not have to climb back.” – Lightning forward Teddy Purcell, on the team’s recent struggles
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