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A lot has changed in nearly three years since the Tampa Bay Lightning and Calgary Flames met for the Stanley Cup. Having Vincent Lecavalier and Jarome Iginla show up on the scoresheet, though, hasn't seemed to change at all.
With Lecavalier and Iginla trying to move their teams closer to first place in their respective divisions, Tampa Bay meets the Calgary Flames at the Pengrowth Saddledome on Saturday night in their first meeting since the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2004.
Shortly after Tampa Bay (38-27-4) defeated Calgary in seven games for its lone championship, the NHL lockout wiped out the 2004-05 campaign and the unbalanced schedule prevented them from meeting last season.
Both rosters have had huge turnovers since the teams last played some 33 months ago. Among those who left the Lightning were goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, defenseman Pavel Kubina and left wings Cory Stillman, Fredrik Modin and Dave Andreychuk.
Gone from the Flames' lineup are left wing Oleg Saprykin, defensemen Steve Montador and Andrew Ference and right wing Chuck Kobasew. Left wing Chris Simon, now with the New York Islanders but banned indefinitely by the league Friday after a stick-swinging incident the previous night on the Ryan Hollweg of the New York Rangers, also played for Calgary (36-22-9).
In the finals, Iginla played better than Lecavalier, but couldn't deliver Calgary's second championship. Iginla had three goals and two assists in the finals compared to only three assists for Lecavalier.
Still, Lecavalier and Iginla remain the faces of their respective teams, and have been two of the league's best players recently.
In 13 games since Feb. 11, Lecavalier has scored 11 of his league-leading 45 goals, and his 21 points are the second-most in the league behind the 22 put up by Colorado's Milan Hejduk. Iginla, meanwhile, has nine goals and 11 assists in only 12 games over that span to tie Avalanche rookie Paul Stastny for third in scoring.
Lecavalier scored twice in a 3-1 win over Edmonton on Wednesday to even Tampa Bay's record on its season-high six-game road trip at 2-2. The top overall pick by the Lightning in 1998, Lecavalier has four goals and three assists in a four-game point streak, but he said he's more concerned with Tampa Bay overtaking Atlanta for the Southeast Division lead than winning the goal-scoring title.
"There's some guys like (Teemu) Selanne, like Marty St. Louis, they're obviously scoring a lot of goals," said Lecavalier, whose team is two points behind the Thrashers. "I'm sure some guys will go on hot streaks. But I just want to finish strong. If it happens, it happens. It would be great, but my main goal is obviously for Tampa to win and to win our division."
Calgary, which is looking for its fifth straight home win, is 13-1-1 at Pengrowth Saddledome since Jan. 4. Its 27 home victories this season also lead the league.
But the Flames will be looking to bounce back after a 6-3 loss to league-leading Nashville on Thursday despite two more goals from Iginla to give him 33 this season.
The Flames, who lost for the first time in six games overall, will need to show better restraint as they took 10 penalties and gave Nashville a pair of 5-on-3s that were converted into goals in a 2:35 span bridging the second and third periods.
"I thought our discipline was not consistently strong enough, and it cost us the hockey game," Calgary coach Jim Playfair said.
The Flames start play in third place in the Northwest Division, two points behind Minnesota and six in back of first-place Vancouver.