The Bruins (25-22-11) will look to make it three wins in a row tonight as they head to the Sunshine State for a pair of games to wrap up their pre-Olympics schedule. Tonight, they find themselves at the St. Pete Times Forum to skate against the surging Tampa Bay Lightning (26-21-11).
Tampa has their sights set on claiming their first playoff berth in three years this spring, and with wins in four straight and seven of their last ten games, the Lightning are well on their way. They currently sit on the edge of the playoff picture in the East, tied for seventh place with the Flyers at 63 points, but just two points ahead of ninth place Boston. In a playoff race that features eight teams from sixth to thirteenth in the East all separated by just eight points total, a win tonight would go a long way for either team.
Let’s now take a closer look at tonight’s matchup…
- Tonight’s game marks the third of four meetings this season between these two squads. Each team has won once on their own home ice so far, splitting a pair of December games.
- Despite being in the middle of the pack, the Lightning do boast one of the best home records in the league, at 17-6-6. Only Washington (3) and San Jose (5) have fewer regulation losses at home than Tampa does.
- Tampa ranks as one of the more physical teams in the league, leading the NHL with 968 penalty minutes, an average of 16.9 per game.
- Tampa Bay is led by a trio of big name power forwards. Winger Martin St. Louis leads the team in overall points, with 20 goals and 46 assists. He is currently on a seven-game points streak. St. Louis is followed by second-year center and former first pick overall Steven Stamkos, who leads the team with 33 goals, along with 30 assists. Stamkos is one of the league’s hottest point-producers going, with eight goals and eight assists in his last 10 games. The trio is rounded out by veteran center Vincent Lecavalier (15G, 40A).
- According to reports from each team’s morning skate, expect tonight’s goaltender matchup to feature a pair of Finns. For the fifth straight game, Boston will go with Tuukka Rask in net, while Tampa will ride the hot hand of Antero Niittymaki (16-9-5, 2.36GAA). Niittymaki is 7-0-1 in his last eight starts, posting a miniscule 1.09GAA during that streak. Niittymaki is backed up by Mike Smith (10-12-6, 2.97GAA).
- And lastly, one familiar face will likely be in the lineup for the ‘Ning tonight, as former Bruins center Nate Thompson is the newest member of the Black and Blue. The 2003 6th-round pick of the Bruins played in just four games with Boston’s big club back in the ’06-’07 season, but spent more than three seasons toiling in Providence. He then spent two-plus years on Long Island playing for the Islanders before being waived last month. Tampa scooped up Thompson and he has played in their last eight games.
Tags: Boston Bruins, Martin St. Louis, Nate Thompson, Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tuukka Rask, Vincent Lecavalier