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Florida Panthers (1-2-0, 2 Points) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (2-1-0, 4 Points)
Sun Sports; AM 970 WFLA
Hosting the Florida Panthers in their home opener, the Tampa Bay Lightning face their intrastate rivals for the first of four games between the two clubs this season Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. Playing seven straight games at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the Bolts next road trip begins in Sunrise versus the Panthers on Sunday, October 27 at the BB&T Center. In 2012-13 the Lightning went 3-1-1 against Florida, but managed just one victory at the Times Forum.
The Big Story:
Beginning their home slate with a season-long, seven-game homestand, Tampa Bay hopes to pick-up where they left off Thursday night. The Bolts attempt to not only secure their third straight victory, but to claim their first home-opener win against the Panthers, after losing two previous home openers against their division rival. All-time the Lightning are 10-7-3 in their home openers and have won two of their past three.
LIGHTNING – Putting together two third period rallies in their past two games, Tampa Bay has found a way to win despite not holding a lead during regulation this season. The trend continued Tuesday night in Western New York, when the Lightning entered the final frame trailing the Buffalo Sabres, 2-1. Forward Teddy Purcell, who transitioned to a line with Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat, managed to tie the game on the power-play to force their second overtime in as many games. The tally on the man-advantage was also their second in as many games. In the win goaltender Ben Bishop picked up his second win of the season and has now stopped 62 of 66 shots he has faced.
PANTHERS – After signing former Stanley Cup Champion Tim Thomas to their roster, the 39-year-old has not been the caliber netminder he has been known to be. Earning a win during their season opener versus the Dallas Stars, Thomas allowed five of seven goals in a 7-0 whitewash at the hands of the St. Louis Blues. He allowed another two goals in less than eight minutes in Florida’s most recent contest in Philadelphia. Thomas then had to leave the game with a groin injury and is now considered day-to-day. Florida looks to snap a two-game losing streak in which they have been outscored by a combined total of 9-1.
Purcell’s two power-play markers lead the team. He also enters tonight’s contest on a four-game point streak (one goal, five assists) against the Panthers. Notching three points in his last two games captain Martin St. Louis leads the Lightning with one goal and two assists thus far. Florida netminder Jacob Markstrom has appeared in relief twice in the Panthers past two contests, stopping 29 of 31 combined shots.
Blueliner Matt Gilroy spent 53 games with the Lightning during the 2011-12 season, amassing 17 points (two goals, 15 assists), before suiting up with the Ottawa Senators for the remainder of the campaign.
LIGHTNING – Brian Lee (Knee, Out), Tom Pyatt (Broken collar bone, Out), Matt Taormina (Upper Body, Day-to-Day); PANTHERS – Sean Bergenheim (Lower Body, Out), Nick Bjugstad (Concussion, Out), Ed Jovanovski (Lower Body, Out), Steve Pinizotto (Lower Body, Out), Tim Thomas (Lower Body, Day-to-Day)
Twitter Stat Pack:
The #TBLightning’s @tjohnny09 ranks sixth in the @NHL in face-off percentage (64.3%) so far this season.
In five games vs. the #FlaPanthers last season, @RealStamkos91 has recorded four goals and two assists.
The #TBLightning’s Valtteri Filppula made his @NHL debut and recorded his first NHL point (assist) against the #FlaPanthers in Dec. 2005.
Three of six #TBLightning goals have come in the third period this season.
“There hasn’t been a storm in any game that we haven’t handled pretty well. Every time Boston surged, I thought we surged back, but we just couldn’t score. Chicago obviously took us a little longer to surge, but in the end I guess we saved our best for the last 10 minutes of the game and fortunately for us that was enough, but you’re playing with fire doing stuff like that. I thought in Buffalo’s game we came out and played well. I think in all three games we’ve come out and played well right out of the gate.” – head coach Jon Cooper on Tampa Bay’s start
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