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Florida Panthers Visit Tampa Bay Lightning: Game 51 Preview

After a recent five game win streak, (and still current six game point streak), the Lightning are poised for a recovery, and the Panthers cling to a Southeast Division lead.

Florida will be visiting the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa. This is the final meeting this season of six between the divisional rivals, and the third of three played in Tampa Bay. The Panthers are 11-10-4 on the road, while Tampa Bay owns a 14-7-2 home record. Florida plays for of their next five games on the road. After tonight's matchup, they go on to play the Washington Capitals on Tuesday, return home to face the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday, then again hit the road, facing the New York Islanders and the New Jersey Devils on a back to back next weekend. Tampa Bay is playing in the fourth game of a five game homestand. They defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets, 4-2 prior to the All-Star break and returned from the break to also beat the Capitals in overtime, 4-3 on Tuesday. The win capped off a five game win-streak, (that on the heels of a seven-game losing streak. The dropped their last game, to the Winnipeg Jets, 2-1 in overtime on Thursday.

The teams last met on November 26th in Tampa Bay, as the Lightning skated to an easy 5-1 victory. Steven Stamkos paced the Lightning with two goals and one assist in the victory. Said Stamkos,

"Tonight we really pushed the pace. We're utilizing our speed and we're confident right now. When you get confidence good things happen and you get rewarded."

Tom Pyatt, Martin St. Louis and Ryan Malone also added goals for the Bolts. Shawn Matthias tallied the lone Panthers marker on the night. Mathieu Garon allowed the lone goal on 25 Panther shots, while Panthers goaltender Jacob Markstrom allowed five goals on 34 shots.

Panthers @ Lightning 11/26/11 (via NHLVideo)

Last night, the Panthers defeated the Winnipeg Jets in regulation, 2-1. Kris Versteeg continued his dominance of the Jets with his team leading 20th goal of the season. Sean Bergenheim also scored for Florida, his eighth of the year. Brian Little scored his 12th of the season for the Jets. Scott Clemmensen earned the victory by stopping 20 of 21 Winnipeg shots. Chris Mason allowed two goals on 30 shots in the loss. Regarding Versteegs dominance of the Jets (six goals in his last three games), he had this to say,
"I don't know, they're a good team. Sometimes you shoot and it goes in. Sometimes as you've seen with me, it won't. I don't really care about who I'm scoring against as long as it goes in."

The Jets topped the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday, 2-1 in overtime. Blake Wheeler scored his 10th goal of the season to put the Jets up, 1-0 near the end of the second. Kyle Wellwood added his 10th of the season in overtime. Ondrej Pavelec stopped 28 of 29 shots for a well earned victory. The Lightning were paced by Victor Hedman, who scored his third goal of the season. Mathieu Garon helped the Bolts earn a point, by stopping 21 of 22 shots in regulation. After the game, Lightning coach Guy Boucher had this to say, regarding the loss as reported by NHL.COM,

"Their goaltender stoned us, basically. We had tons of quality, quality scoring chances and we couldn't bury them."

Jets @ Lightning 02/02/12 (via NHLVideo)

Season Series: Panthers: 2-1-2, Lightning, 3-2-0

All-Time Series: Panthers, 55-29-19, Lightning, 38-45-20

Game Time: 7:00 EST



Florida Panthers: 24-15-11, 59, points, first Southeast Division, third Eastern Conference, 13th NHL, on pace for 97 points.

Tampa Bay Lightning: 22-23-5, 49 points, fourth Southeast Division, 11th Eastern Conference, 23rd NHL, on pace for 80 points.

Last Five:

Panthers: L-W-O-W-W

Lightning: W-W-W-W-O

Photographs by, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.