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The Tampa Bay Lightning kept it simple in their Thursday night 3-1 win over the Calgary Flames. Now comes the increasingly challenging part for Jon Cooper
’s club-- starting a streak.
Since their season-opening three-game winning streak, the Lightning have failed to put together a winning streak of any sort. For a team that won 50 games last season, with eight different winning streaks of three or more games over that 82-game grind, that’s just plain weird.
But the Bolts will get a fifth chance at starting their second winning streak of the season when they play host to their in-state rival Florida Panthers at Amalie Arena on Saturday night.
“We came out with some energy,” Tampa Bay forward Ryan Callahan
said of the team’s success on Thursday and what needs to translate into this one. “We held onto pucks in the offensive zone, threw pucks on, and it seemed like when we were shooting pucks we were retrieving them, too.”
The Bolts’ third-period shutdown of the Flames was reminiscent of last year, and while the game of comparing an East-winning Bolts squad to this year’s group, which has struggled out of the gate by way of an 8-8-2 record, is a dangerous game, the return to that level of play seems encouraging.
Still, you could make the case that you’ve seen this before. That is what makes tonight’s tilt all the more important for the Bolts, even if it comes against a Florida team that’s lost six of their last seven.
This will be the first head-to-head between the Bolts and ‘Cats this season. Tampa took last year’s season series, three games to win, and outscored Florida 14-to-9 over that stretch.
In Net: Roberto Luongo vs. Ben Bishop
As expected, Florida coach Gerard Gallant
will turn to Roberto Luongo
for this one. Luongo had a rough night in his last appearance, a 16-of-19 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night, and has just three wins and 27 goals against in his last 10 appearances. But still, the 36-year-old enters play with an impressive .924 save percentage on the season. Luongo has 13 wins (three shutouts) and a .918 save percentage in 31 career starts against the Lightning.
Tampa Bay counters with Ben Bishop
. The Lightning’s No. 1 stopped 30-of-31 shots against in his last outing, and has been a straight-up monster of late, even if the results in win/losses haven’t necessarily been there. Over his last six games, the 6-foot-7 Bishop has failed to allow more than two goals in a game, and has stopped 158-of-167 shots against (a .946 save percentage). Bishop comes into tonight’s tilt with six wins and a .924 save percentage in seven career games against the Panthers. Interesting note? This is Bishop's first second consecutive start in the Tampa crease since Andrei Vasilevskiy
Stats of Note
- Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos
has 25 goals and 43 points in 35 games against Florida.
- Victor Hedman has been held without an assist in seven consecutive games.
- Jonathan Huberdeau
has four goals and 10 points in 13 games against the Bolts.
- Florida’s Reilly Smith
has just one goal and zero assists in his last seven games played.
Other news and notes
The lines are expected to remain the same for the Bolts. So that means that Vladislav Namestnikov
will skate with Stamkos and Callahan, while Jonathan Drouin
skates with Cedric Paquette
and J.T. Brown
on the Bolts’ fourth line.
On the backend, Nikita Nesterov
was shuffled back down to the AHL on Friday afternoon, while Matt Taormina
was recalled from Syracuse in his place. The 29-year-old Taormina has two goals and five points in 10 games in the AHL this season, and comes back to the Bolts with four goals and 12 points in 56 games at the NHL level (with nine of those games coming in Tampa).
Ty Anderson has been covering the National Hockey League for HockeyBuzz.com since 2010, has been a member of the Pro Hockey Writers Association's Boston Chapter since 2013, and can be contacted on Twitter, or emailed at Ty.AndersonHB[at]gmail.com.