(Sports Network) - An important Southeast Division battle will take place
tonight in Atlanta, as the host Thrashers try to avoid a third straight loss
when they take on the surging Tampa Bay Lightning at Philips Arena.
The Lightning enter tonight with 45 points and are tied with Washington for
first place in the Southeast Division. The Capitals will also be facing a
divisional opponent tonight in Carolina.
The Thrashers, meanwhile, are just two points behind the Bolts and Capitals,
but Atlanta has lost its last two contests after gaining a point in eight out
of nine games (6-1-2) from Dec. 4-20.
The Lightning hope to continue their recent dominance of the Thrashers as they
aim for a ninth straight win in the series tonight. Tampa Bay has won all
three meetings so far this year and has also taken the last three encounters
Tampa Bay is still in the midst of a point streak, having compiled a 5-0-2
record over its last seven games. The Lightning recently earned split in
consecutive games in the New York area, losing an overtime decision to the
Islanders on Wednesday before beating the Rangers in the shootout stage the
With 45 points in 34 games, the Lightning are off to the best start in team
"With the crazy schedule we had, 15 of 21 games on the road, we wanted to
survive above .500. We did more than that," Tampa Bay head coach Guy Boucher
said of his team's record at this stage of the season. "Our short-term goal
was to be first in our division by Christmas. It just shows how much character
the guys have."
Tampa Bay recorded a 4-3 decision at Madison Square Garden on Thursday, as
Ryan Malone scored in the 11th round of the shootout to lift the Bolts past
Martin St. Louis had a goal and an assist for the Lightning. Steven Stamkos
and Vincent Lecavalier also scored in regulation for Tampa Bay, which got 34
saves from Dan Ellis.
The Lightning, who are 10-8-3 as the guest this year, are playing the last
test of a three-game road trip tonight. The Bolts will begin a three-game
homestand Tuesday night against Boston.
Atlanta was dealt its second straight regulation loss Thursday night in
Boston, dropping a 4-1 decision to the Bruins. Shawn Thornton scored a pair of
goals and Tim Thomas made 26 saves to lead the B's to the victory at TD
Dustin Byfuglien provided the lone goal for the Thrashers, while Ondrej
Pavelec allowed all four goals on 36 shots in defeat.
Byfuglien has scored a goal in two straight games and is leading all NHL
defensemen in goals (13) and points (37) this season. He has two goals and two
assists in six career games against Tampa.
Another Atlanta blueliner, Zach Bogosian, is an injury concern for the
Thrashers tonight. Bogosian missed the last game with an unspecified injury,
but he may be able to return to the lineup tonight.
The Thrashers have a 10-7-2 record on home ice this year, but they have lost
three of their last four games at Philips Arena.
The Sports Network