NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Sunday, November 22nd
(All times eastern)
Tampa Bay Lightning (8-5-7) at Atlanta Thrashers (10-7-2), 5 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Tampa Bay Lightning close out a four-game road trip
tonight in Atlanta, where they take on the Thrashers at Philips Arena.
The Lightning had a seven-game point streak snapped last night in Carolina,
where they suffered a 3-1 setback. Tampa Bay had been 4-0-3 in its previous
seven games and 6-1-5 in its last 12.
Martin St. Louis netted the lone goal for the Lightning, which had notched a
victory in Phoenix last Monday prior to an overtime loss at Anaheim on
Thursday. Mike Smith made 24 saves in the loss to the Hurricanes.
"We have to clean up a lot of areas on the ice and different zones in order
for this team to continue to win and continue to have success," Smith told
Tampa Bay's Web site. "You can get by for a little while, but sooner or later
it's going to bite you. I don't think you can use that [the team's tiredness]
as an excuse when we are on the road, having the travel from the west coast
The Lightning have now lost two straight and three of four and are 3-5-3 on
the road this season.
Last night marked Smith's third straight start, though playing on back-to-back
nights the Lightning might decide to go with Antero Niittymaki in goal this
evening. Also helping that decision could be that Niittymaki is a perfect
13-0-0 with a 1.78 goals-against average lifetime versus the Thrashers.
Niittymaki's current season GAA of 1.93 and .939 save percentage in 10 games
are currently tops in the NHL.
Smith, meanwhile, allowed six goals in a loss to the Thrashers on October 3,
Tampa Bay's fourth straight defeat to Atlanta. The Thrashers have also won
five of six and 11 of the last 13 meetings between the clubs, taking two
straight and eight of nine in Atlanta.
The Thrashers close out a five-game homestand this evening following last
night's 3-2 setback to Pittsburgh. Atlanta fell to 2-1-1 on the residency and
4-5-1 overall as the host this year.
Chris Thorburn and Maxim Afinogenov each scored a goal while Johan Hedberg
stopped 31 shots for the Thrashers, who have dropped their past two after a
four-game winning streak.
"They had a lot of breaks tonight," said Hedberg. "Overall I think we played
good against a good team. [Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre] Fleury made some
big saves tonight and we hit a few posts. We have a lot of character and we
believe in ourselves. If we keep playing like this we will be successful."
Afinogenov extended his point streak to five games, totaling six goals and
three assists over the run. He also has a point in nine of his last 10 games
Hedberg is 6-5-1 with a tie and 3.27 GAA in 15 games versus the Lightning,
while Ondrej Pavelec stopped 36 of the 39 shots he faced in beating them back
Ilya Kovalchuk had two goals and an assist in that game, giving him 28 goals
and 49 points in 45 career games against Tampa Bay.
11/22 10:30:13 ET