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Lightning (3-0-0, preseason) vs. Panthers (2-1-1, preseason)
TV/Radio: AM 970 WFLA
The Tampa Bay Lightning meet the Florida Panthers for the first of three preseason games against their Atlantic Division foes tonight at 7 p.m. at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. The Lightning won their first three games of the regular season in 2012-13 against Florida, but suffered two straight losses on home ice at the hands of the Panthers to end the year. The last time the two teams faced each other in preseason play, the Bolts outscored the Panthers by a combined score of 10-5, winning both games of a home-and-home series.
The Big Story:
Closing out a stretch of four games in four nights, Tampa Bay looks to capture their fourth-straight win Saturday night versus the Panthers. The Lightning won their first exhibition road game Friday in St. Louis, 4-3, to sweep the Blues in two games this preseason. The Panthers are playing the second half of back-to-back games, in which they suffered a 4-1 loss to Dallas yesterday. Losing two straight games, including a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars Wednesday, the Panthers look to earn their first win since Monday, September 16.
LIGHTNING – The Bolts come into tonight’s game winning three-straight preseason games for the first time since the 2010-11 season. Outscoring opponents 13-7 through those three games, the Lightning have seen eight different players tally goals thus far. The top line of Ryan Malone, Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis will be reunited for the first time this year, as St. Louis and defenseman Sami Salo see their first preseason action tonight. Despite not participating in today’s morning skate, goaltenders Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback are again listed on tonight’s roster after splitting time in net yesterday.
PANTHERS – Florida plays at the Tampa Bay Times Forum for the first of three games versus the Lightning this preseason. The Panthers are coming off of a 4-1 loss to Dallas Friday in which they played at the AT&T Center and the home of their AHL affiliate the San Antonio Rampage. Defenseman Tom Gilbert tallied the only goal of the night for the Panthers yesterday on the power-play. Despite winning just two of four preseason contests this year, Florida is tied in scoring with opponents 12-12. The Panthers also released 22 players from training camp Saturday morning, bringing their roster count from 59 to 37.
Replacing forward Teddy Purcell in the lineup, Brett Connolly scored his third goal of the preseason Friday. Connolly was also a factor in two preseason intra-squad scrimmage tallies earlier this week. Valtteri Filppula was a factor on three of the four Lightning goals yesterday, notching three assists, while Ondrej Palat also netted his second in Friday’s win.
LIGHTNING – No Reported Injuries; PANTHERS – No Reported Injuries.
Florida Blueliner Matt Gilroy spent 53 games with Tampa Bay during the 2011-12 season, amassing 17 points (two goals, 15 assists), before being traded to the Ottawa Senators for the remainder of the campaign.
Twitter Stat Pack:
The Lightning will be looking for their fourth straight exhibition win Saturday. The club hasn’t one four-straight games in the preseason since the 2008-09 campaign when the Lightning defeated the New York Rangers twice and two international teams (Eisbaren, HC Slovan).
Eight different players have netted goals so far this preseason: Erne (2), Pyatt, Connolly (3), Palat (2), Stamkos, Panik, Sergeev, Labrie. Filppula and Erne also tallied in Wednesday’s shootout win.
Filppula’s three assists in Friday’s game versus the Blues earned him the first star of the game.
“You look for guys who don’t take anything for granted. For players who have been here for a while, you look to see if those players have a sense of entitlement. Those are one of the big things I’m looking for, but I have yet to see any of it. Quite frankly, everybody’s acting like a rookie, they’re all pretty excited. Sami Salo and Martin St. Louis are the only two guys who haven’t played yet and they were almost growling at me that I hadn’t played them in a game yet.” – Head Coach Jon Cooper