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Big Atlantic showdown looms tonight for the Lightning in Boston

by Bryan Burns / Tampa Bay Lightning

With wins in five-straight games, the Tampa Bay Lightning own the longest active win streak in the Eastern Conference and second-longest in the NHL.

The Bolts will go for consecutive win number six when they take on the Boston Bruins tonight at TD Garden, a building they’re just 1-9-1 in over their last 11 games.

The Lightning ended a five-year losing skid in Boston when they defeated the Bruins 6-3 earlier this season (Oct. 12). Tampa Bay has won just five times in 38 regular-season meetings all-time in Boston.

“It seems like forever,” said Bolts forward Brian Boyle, who scored two goals in that victory in the third game of the season. “A lot’s happened since then. That was a fun night. It was a good memory. I’ve had some tough nights in here too. It’s on to the next one really. We’re facing a good team, a good power play. It’s a tight race with us and them tied in points. It’s going to be a big game.”

The Lightning are level with Boston in second place in the Atlantic Division at 74 points but own the tiebreaker based on fewer games played. Both Tampa Bay and Boston sit four points back of Florida, which lost 4-3 in a shootout to Columbus on Saturday, for the Atlantic lead. Detroit, in fourth place, is just one point behind the Bolts and Bruins. Beyond those top four, there’s a considerable gap between Detroit and fifth place Ottawa (66 points).

HEDMAN OK

Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman took part in Sunday’s morning skate at TD Garden and said he felt no ill effects from Friday night in New Jersey when he left the ice in the third period and didn’t return.

“I’m good to go for tonight,” he said. “It wasn’t anything too serious.”

Hedman said he used the day off Saturday in Boston to rest.

Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said he was relieved Hedman wouldn’t miss any games and there would be no changes to the lineup from Friday, meaning Jonathan Marchessault will get in his seventh-straight game and Ben Bishop will be the Bolts’ goaltender tonight.

Erik Condra will be a healthy scratch for the fifth time in the last seven games.

Cooper also added he’s “cautiously optimistic” Jason Garrison will be able to play one or both of the Bolts’ upcoming games at Toronto (Monday) or at Ottawa (Thursday). Garrison has been unavailable for the last nine games after suffering a lower-body injury in the Lightning’s last trip to Ottawa (Feb. 8).

“He’s progressing really well, much better than we anticipated,” Cooper said about Garrison. “He’s a guy who keeps himself in great shape. More often than not, those guys can get back quicker, so it’s a testament to him.”

TRADE DEADLINE LOOMS

The National Hockey League’s trade deadline is 3 p.m. Monday, so rumors of potential deals have spread rapidly on social media. The Lightning have yet to make a trade, but whether they do or not, Cooper said he is satisfied with the current team.

“To be honest, we’re not even really thinking about it,” he said. “I’ve said this before, we’re really happy with our group. We just got (Nikita Kucherov) back. Hopefully we’re going to get Garrison back here. The guys have kind of come in to our own here a little bit. It’s easy to say that when you’ve won a few in a row, but we’re playing well. I think we’re earning these wins, from the goaltending all the way through. So hopefully we can keep this up here for the last 20 because the East is so tight.”

The Lightning are playing the day before and day of the trade deadline. Boyle said it helps to focus on the game so as not to be distracted by all the trade talk and rumors.

“Compared to having a day off and you’re at home with the wife and she’s asking you to do chores and not paying attention,” said Boyle, a Boston native who spent the off day Saturday visiting relatives and friends. “We like playing the game. The game is a good distraction.”

Hedman said he is curious to see what kind of a move, if any, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman will make in the next 24-plus hours.

“These few days are always interesting to see what happens, to see if you add pieces of not,” Hedman said. “We believe in the group that we have, but it’s up to Steve to make those decisions. There’s not much we can do about it. All we can do is focus on these two games, playing back-to-back, two big games for us.”

ODDS AND ENDS

Steven Stamkos moved into a tie with Vinny Prospal for fourth on the Lightning’s all-time assists list after tallying No. 244 of his career in the win over New Jersey…Stamkos, who is on a five-game goal streak, now ranks seventh in the NHL for goals…The Lightning have won three straight on the road…Ben Bishop passed Nikolai Khabibulin (14 shutouts) for most shutouts all-time in Tampa Bay history with his 15th as a Bolt on Friday…Tampa Bay has won five-straight games that have gone into overtime (three wins in OT, two in a shootout)…The Lightning have won 13-consecutive games when scoring three or more goals.

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