NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Friday, November 25th (All times eastern)
Tampa Bay Lightning (9-9-2) at Florida Panthers (12-6-3), 7:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Not much has been going wrong for the Florida Panthers.
They are getting excellent production from the blue line, are in the midst of a perfect homestand and a victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning this evening in the front end of a home-and-home series would give the club its longest winning streak since a franchise-record run in 2008.
The Lightning? Well, they aren't exactly coming off their best effort of the season.
The Panthers try to take advantage of that tonight as they battle the Bolts for the fourth time already this season. They have gone 2-0-1 against them so far, including a sweep of a home-and-home set on Oct. 15-17. Tampa Bay then countered with a shootout victory at Florida on Nov. 6, but Florida is still 16-3-4 against the club at home since the lockout.
Six of the past eight meetings between these rivals have gone beyond regulation and the Panthers have won six of the last nine meetings overall. Tampa Bay will host Florida on Saturday, but the clubs won't wrap their season series until Feb. 4.
Forward Kris Versteeg and defenseman Brian Campbell both have six points versus the Lightning this year, with Versteeg scoring three times. Versteeg also leads the Panthers with 12 goals and 26 points, picking up a goal in Wednesday's 2-1 win over the New York Rangers.
Jason Garrison also scored, his NHL-leading eighth goal from a defenseman, and Tomas Fleischmann assisted on both goals but also took an elbow to the head.
"I've probably got to confess that sometimes I just close my eyes and shoot (the puck) as hard as I can," Garrison said. "Fortunately, they're going in for me right now."
Jose Theodore made 19 saves for the Panthers, who gave up a season-low 20 goals and have won the first three of a four-game homestand. A perfect residency would give Florida its longest win streak since a franchise-record seven-game run from March 2-16, 2008.
At 12-6-3, the Panthers are off to their best 21-game start since 1996-97 (13-3-5).
The Lightning will hope to slow down their Sunshine State rivals by rebounding from a 7-1 defeat to the Maple Leafs on Tuesday, their fourth loss in five games. With 20 points, they are seven behind the first-place Panthers.
Vincent Lecavalier notched the lone goal for the Lightning.
"We started the game really good," said Lecavalier. "But our penalties placed us in a bad spot and things turned on us pretty quick."
Dwayne Roloson started in net for Tampa Bay but was pulled in the third period after allowing six goals on 21 shots. Mathieu Garon stopped 4-of-5 shots the rest of the way.
Steven Stamkos has an assist on Lecavalier's goal and he has a pair of goals and an assist versus the Panthers this season.
Tampa Bay has lost four of its last five on the road, giving it a mark of 3-6-2 as the guest this year.
11/25 10:46:03 ET