After a fairly sluggish start to the 2011-2012 Eastern Conference finalists, the Tampa Bay Lightning appear to be rounding into form as we approach the final month of the 2011 calendar year. Thanks to outstanding play from star center Steven Stamkos, the Lightning have won their past two to improve to 13-9-2. Stamkos netted three goals and assisted on one other in Tampa Bay's home-and-home sweep of the Florida Panthers this weekend. He now is second in the NHL with 14 goals, and his 24 points put him in the top-five. The two game stretch ended a slump for Stamkos, who had just one goal in the Lightning's five games (1-4) prior to Thanksgiving.
"We're just utilizing our speed, and we have confidence right now," Stamkos said. "When you get confidence, good things happen."
Minnesota, meanwhile, appears to be heading in the opposite direction as Tampa Bay. The Wild have lost two in a row after a 10-2 run elevated them into first place in the Northwest Division of the Western Conference. Their most recent defeat, a 5-2 defeat to Calgary on Sunday, was a mistake-filled, sloppy performance that captain Mikko Koivu was disappointed by.
"This can't happen again. It's about our effort and the way we should play the game and support each other out here," captain Mikko Koivu said Sunday, "and it's something we need to learn from."
The two teams split their season series a year ago, with the road team winning both times. The puck drops at Excel Energy Center in Minneapolis at 8 pm est.