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Lightning (15-18-1, 31 Points) vs. Panthers (11-19-6, 28 Points)
TV/Radio: Sun Sports HD; AM 970 WFLA
This is the fourth of five total meetings this season between the two in-state rivals. Thus far, Tampa Bay has won each of the first three matchups on the year, claiming victories on January 29, February 16 and March 12, with two of those wins coming by just a single goal. The clubs will conclude the season series on April 27 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
New Bolts head coach Jon Cooper earned his first career NHL win behind the bench last week, which kept the Lightning in the playoff hunt, as Tampa Bay enters Tuesday’s contest just four points behind the New York Rangers for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Lightning, though, will be without forward Nate Thompson, who will serve the first contest of a two-game suspension. Florida, meanwhile, is coming off two straight victories in extra time, and looks to put together a string of three consecutive wins for the first time all season.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay wraps up a three-game homestand on Tuesday, as it looks to complete a sweep of the swing after winning each of the first two. The Jon Cooper era officially became ushered in on Friday night, when the Lightning rallied from a pair of two-goal deficits to earn a 5-4 win in the shootout over the Devils. Steven Stamkos scored twice, and assisted on Alex Killorn’s game-tying goal with 15 seconds left to send the contest into overtime. After that didn’t solve it, Teddy Purcell and Victor Hedman each had goals in the shootout, while Mathieu Garon stopped each New Jersey attempt to come away with the win.
Nate Thompson also scored for Tampa Bay, while Garon finished with 21 saves.
PANTHERS – Florida makes the short trip up to Tampa Bay for its lone road game of the week, as it will return home to Sunrise following Tuesday night’s tilt to kick off a two-game homestand. The Panthers are seeking their first win streak of three games this season, coming off consecutive victories in the extra session in their past two games. On Thursday, it was a 5-4 victory in the shootout over Buffalo that got Florida back on the winning track. That, then, was followed by a 3-2 overtime win against the Devils in the team’s most recent outing on Saturday night. Much like the night before in Tampa Bay, New Jersey surrendered two one-goal deficits, allowing the Panthers to come back each time, including in the third period when Shawn Matthias scored to send a 2-2 contest into overtime. Dmitry Kulikov added the game-winner just 1:43 into the additional frame, collecting the win for Florida in a game during which Jacob Markstrom came up with 24 saves.
Lightning forwards Steven Stamkos has four goals and six points in his past three games and Martin St. Louis has collected a goal and four points in his past three games as well. For Florida, Shawn Matthias has scored five goals in his past three games, while Jonathan Huberdeau has notched a goal and four assists in his past three outings.
LIGHTNING – Vincent Lecavalier (Lower Body, Placed On Injured Reserve), Ryan Malone (Upper Body, Placed On Injured Reserve), Anders Lindback (Lower Body, Placed On Injured Reserve), Pierre-Cedric Labrie (Upper Body, Placed On Injured Reserve) and BJ Crombeen (Lower Body).
PANTHERS – Jack Skille (Upper Body, Placed On Injured Reserve), Mike Weaver (Lower Body, Placed On Injured Reserve), Kris Versteeg (Knee, Placed On Injured Reserve), Stephen Weiss (Wrist, Placed On Injured Reserve), Jose Theodore (Groin, Placed On Injured Reserve).
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. Florida defenseman Filip Kuba also spent some time in Tampa Bay, suiting up for the Lightning from 2006 to 2008.
The Lightning's power play is 4-for-11 (36.4%) against the Panthers this season, while the Bolts' penalty kill unit has successfully killed off all 11 Panther power plays.
The Lightning are on a seven game winning streak against Florida dating back to last season.
Martin St. Louis is on a seven game point streak against Florida dating back to last season.
Steven Stamkos is currently on an eight-game goal scoring streak against the Panthers, setting the longest such streak all-time against Florida.
Steven Stamkos has scored four goals against Florida this season, with three of those strikes coming on the man-advantage.
The Bolts are averaging 4.6 goals per game versus the Panthers this season.
“I was a little bit nervous out there for the first shift, but after a couple of minutes I got more comfortable. The game is a lot faster, but I think once I adjusted to the speed and figured out how to close my gaps and take away time and space, it made it a lot easier.” – Lightning defenseman Andrej Sustr, reflecting back on his first career NHL game on Friday against the Devils
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