NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Friday, April 6th
(All times eastern)
Florida Panthers (34-31-15) at Tampa Bay Lightning (44-32-4), 8 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Tampa Bay Lightning have clinched a playoff spot and
can possibly take over first place in the Southeast Division tonight, when
they welcome the Florida Panthers to St. Pete Times Forum.
The Lightning have 92 points on the year and punched a ticket to the
postseason thanks to the New York Islanders' win over Toronto on Thursday.
Tampa Bay is also just one point behind Atlanta for the Southeast Division
lead. Both the Lightning and the Thrashers have two games left in the regular
season and Atlanta is playing in Carolina tonight.
If Florida beats Tampa in regulation and the Thrashers get a win against
Carolina then Atlanta will seal up the division crown. However, if the
division title is still undecided after tonight, the Thrashers and Bolts will
play for the title Saturday in Atlanta in the regular-season finale for both
clubs. If the teams end the season tied the Lightning will get the nod because
of their superior win total.
Finishing first or second in the division will have huge ramifications in the
Eastern Conference playoff race, as the team winning the Southeast will have
the third seed and the second-place club will be in either the sixth or
The Lightning are coming off Tuesday's victory over the visiting Hurricanes.
Dan Boyle scored the game-winning goal early in the third period as Tampa
downed Carolina, 3-2.
Vincent Lecavalier and Eric Perrin each added a goal for the Lightning, who
have won three straight. Johan Holmqvist stopped 23 shots in the triumph.
This evening's test marks the end of a three-game homestand for Tampa Bay and
is the club's final regular-season tilt at home. The Lightning are 22-17-1 as
the host team this year.
The Panthers were officially eliminated from playoff contention in their last
game, a 1-0 loss to the Capitals on Tuesday. Olaf Kolzig stopped 27 shots for
his first shutout of the season and Alexander Ovechkin scored the game's only
goal to help Washington earn the home victory at the Verizon Center.
Craig Anderson made 16 saves in net for the Panthers, who have dropped two
straight and will miss the playoffs for the sixth straight season.
Florida is playing the middle test of a season-ending three-game road swing
tonight. The Panthers are a dismal 11-19-9 as the away club this year, but
have won three of their last five games on the road.
The Panthers have taken four of the seven meetings with Tampa Bay this season
and nine of the last 13 encounters overall.
04/06 11:29:58 ET