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PANTHERS (24-34-7) vs. LIGHTNING (34-24-7)
Florida 3-7-0; Tampa Bay 5-3-2
SUN; AM 970 WFLA
Tampa Bay captured the Governor's Cup at BB&T Center in December with a 6-1 win over the Panthers. It was the Lightning's third straight victory against their intrastate rival. A win Thursday would be the Bolts first-ever season series sweep versus Florida.
Going through their worst skid of the year (1-4-2 in last seven games), the Lightning look to collect two points this time around, as they were only able to earn one point apiece in two straight shootout losses. Still a number of teams continue to nip at Tampa Bay's heels for a Wild Card spot in the postseason.
LIGHTNING – With two days between games the Bolts got back to work at the Tampa Bay Times Forum this week. Now just 17 games remain on the Lightning's season slate, but the results in their past two, albeit losses, have been encouraging.
While the line of Ondrej Palat, Valtteri Filppula and Ryan Callahan have been hot, head coach Jon Cooper hinted that some other changes might be coming on the rest of the lines. During Wednesday's practice Tyler Johnson was placed on right wing along with Alex Killorn and Steven Stamkos, while Nikita Kucherov, Tom Pyatt and Teddy Purcell were grouped together.
Blueliners Radko Gudas, who has missed Tampa Bay's past four games with a lower body injury, and Sami Salo were back on the ice with their teammates Tuesday and Wednesday. Salo left during the first period of Monday's game against the Coyotes after blocking a shot and has been diagnosed as day-to-day with a lower body injury. The two are questionable to return today.
PANTHERS – Florida is another team that has struggled since re-opening the season since the Olympic break. Like Tampa Bay, the Panthers have only collected four points over their past seven games.
With the playoffs far in the distance, Florida is focusing on the bigger picture of developing their prospects as well as trying out a number of players for next year's NHL team. Head coach Peter Horacheck, who would like to make his position permanent, is continuing to work on game fundamentals with the Panthers during the last leg of the year.
Tyler Johnson was the third rookie in franchise history to reach the 20-goal plateau by notching the first tally of the game shorthanded. It also extended his point streak to four games (three goals, one assist) and gives him shorthanded points in three straight contests. Ondrej Palat has multi-point games in back-to-back contests (three goals, two assists) and ranks second among NHL rookies for points (42).
3/9 – Agreed to terms with free agent forward Yanni Gourde
Lightning – D Radko Gudas (lower body, day-to-day), D Brian Lee (knee, out), D Sami Salo (lower body, day-to-day); Panthers –F Aleksander Barkov (lower body, out), F Sean Bergenheim (lower body, day-to-day), D Erik Gudbranson (lower body, out), F Tomas Kopecky (upper body, out), F Jesse Winchester (lower body, out)
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