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NHL Preview from The Sports Network

Thursday, February 22nd (All times eastern)

Tampa Bay Lightning (34-24-3) at Atlanta Thrashers (31-22-9), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - A pivotal matchup in the Southeast Division is scheduled for this evening, when the Atlanta Thrashers will open the doors of Philips Arena for the rival Tampa Bay Lightning.

The clubs come into tonight's contest tied atop the Southeast with 71 points apiece. The winner of this evening's game will not only take over first place in the division, but will also occupy the third spot in the Eastern Conference.

Tampa Bay has held the upper hand in the season series with the Thrashers so far, winning four of the six meetings. The Lightning have won nine of the last 14 overall matchups between the teams and have also walked away victorious in five of their last seven trips to Atlanta.

Atlanta is 14-9-5 as the home club this year, while the Lightning are a solid 17-11-3 on the road.

The Lightning have made this a tight race recently by winning four of five and eight of their last 10 games. The club continued its winning ways on Tuesday, earning a close decision over visiting Florida.

Martin St. Louis scored the game-winner in the shootout and added a goal in regulation to lead Tampa Bay to the 3-2 triumph over the Panthers at St. Pete Times Forum.

With the shootout tied at 1-1, St. Louis had the third shot for the Lightning and buried the puck between the pads of Ed Belfour to give his club the advantage. Steve Montador had the last opportunity for Florida, but Marc Denis poked the puck off of Montador's stick to give the Lightning the win.

Ryan Craig scored Tampa's other regulation goal and Denis finished the game with 28 saves for the Lightning.

St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards each come into this evening's encounter with five-game point streaks.

The Thrashers were able to end a four-game losing streak on Tuesday night, as they downed the Hurricanes in Carolina. Johan Hedberg made 33 saves to lead Atlanta to a 3-1 triumph in another big Southeast Division battle.

Marian Hossa had a goal and an assist and Ilya Kovalchuk scored the game- winning goal for the Thrashers.

02/22 10:47:17 ET

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