Season Series: Tuesday's clash marks the lone head-to-head meeting of the season between the Ducks and Bolts. In their only matchup last season, Ryan Getzlaf notched the overtime winner to lift Anaheim to a 3-2 win over Tampa Bay on Nov. 3, 2010.
Big Story: This rare inter-conference game at Tampa Bay Times Forum comes at a crucial juncture of the season for both clubs. Each stands in the thick of the playoff races in their respective conferences, and the teams are only separated by two points in the League standings. The Bolts are six points behind Toronto for the eighth playoff spot in the East with a game in hand, and look to make it three in a row after earning a 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals on Saturday. The Ducks, meanwhile, continue their lengthy road trip after blanking the Southeast-leading Florida Panthers, 2-0, on Sunday at BankAtlantic Center.
Ducks: Sunday's win at Florida was the latest installment of Anaheim's remarkable turnaround. The Ducks have drawn within five points of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference after trailing the occupant of that spot by as many as 20 points this season. Jonas Hiller stopped all 31 shots for his third shutout of the season, and Niklas Hagman’s empty-netter in the final seconds sealed Anaheim's sixth win in eight games.
Now, as they get set to face the Lightning before closing out their season-long eight-game road trip Thursday in Carolina, the Ducks improbable quest for a playoff berth continues.
"Everybody's believed for a long time that we had a chance to climb back," Teemu Selanne told NHL.com. "We're still not really there, but we're in the right direction. It's a good sign that even [Sunday] I don't think we played that well, but we found a way to win the game. Jonas was really good today again. That's what we need."
Lightning: Like the Ducks, the Bolts' recent resurgence has catapulted them back into contention. The organization made a pair of trades sending Dominic Moore to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday and Pavel Kubina to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, but the Lightning have remained as persistent as ever in their efforts to stay in the playoff hunt.
Tampa Bay got its current four-game homestand off to a sour start with a 4-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators last Tuesday, but has since regained momentum on home ice. Two nights after Martin St. Louis scored the overtime winner to oust the Sharks, Mathieu Garon stopped 23 of 24 shots on Saturday in a crucial win against the division-rival Capitals. Steven Stamkos was credited with the game-winning goal, marking the third time he has scored 40 or more goals in his first four NHL seasons.
"We could have easily folded the tent and said, 'OK, we're just going to think about next year,'" Stamkos told the Tampa Bay Times. "But just because there's a couple of trades, we're not going to stop playing. We responded with two big wins and we have to keep going."
Who’s Hot: Hiller was named the NHL's First Star of the Week on Monday after posting a 3-0-1 record last week with only four goals allowed in that span. Hiller has turned his season around by registering a 13-3-4 mark since the start of January. … Stamkos has tallied three goals and two assists over his last two outings. Teddy Purcell has been a point-per-game force lately as well, compiling a goal and seven assists over his last seven games.
Injury Report: Ducks' goaltender Dan Ellis (groin) is on Injured Reserve. ... Vincent Lecavalier left practice Monday with an upper-body injury and is listed as day-to-day. Marc-Andre Bergeron (back) is out of the lineup for Tampa Bay, while Dana Tyrell is done for the season due to a knee injury. Mattias Ohlund is scheduled to have major knee surgery Thursday, leaving no definite timetable for his return.
Stat Pack: Selanne scored his 20th goal of the season in Sunday's win against Florida, becoming the oldest NHL player to reach that mark since Johnny Bucyk did it for the Boston Bruins in 1976-77.
Puck Drop: "It's nice to get to the 60-point plateau, because then you can at least see the guys in the distance. We always believed that we're there. We don't really care what anybody else thinks about it. As long as we believe we're there, we're OK." -- Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau