The Tampa Bay Lightning are validating the notion that there’s no place like home.
Tampa Bay brings a modest two-game win streak into Saturday’s game against the division-rival Hurricanes, and has a chance to complete a sweep of its current three-game home stand in front of its fans before heading back on the road next week.
While head coach Guy Boucher insists he isn’t paying much attention to the standings, it’s hard to ignore the fact that his team is using the momentum of recent victories and its success on home ice to not only potentially stretch the win streak to three games, but also climb in the standings as a result.
“We’ve been doing a lot of good things recently to put ourselves in a position to get some wins,” center Dominic Moore said. “This home stand has been a great opportunity for us to take big strides in that direction.”
With a 16-17-3 record, the Lightning are six points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and are 10 points behind Southeast Division-leading Florida. Sure, there is a lot of ground to make up, but also no mistaking that the team’s 10-5-0 record at the St. Pete Times Forum this season has certainly helped them get to where they currently are at.
“It’s very important for us to win our home games,” General Manager Steve Yzerman said. “We’ve played so many games on the road that if we can get hot at home, we might be able to climb back and compete for a playoff spot.”
The current three-game stretch on home ice is just the Lightning’s second so far this season. Heading into Saturday’s divisional matchup with Carolina, Tampa Bay has played just 15 games at home, which is tied with Philadelphia for the fewest in the league.
Other than its home record and a pair of consecutive victories, the numbers at the Times Forum also seem to favor the Bolts more so than on the road. Tampa Bay can certainly use that to its advantage Saturday when it attempts to keep the winning streak alive. There might even be added incentive, knowing that an additional victory to close out the home stretch could carry over and be especially useful when it does go on the road for each of its next three games.
The Lightning offense has five more goals scored at home this season than on the road, and has given up a glaring total of 32 less goals in its own arena than it has in other NHL venues this season. Its home power play ranks fifth in the league at 21.2 percent, while it operates at just a 9.5 percent efficiency rate on the road, which comes in last among all 30 teams.
To date, the Lightning have already played more than half of their road schedule. On the remaining regular season slate, there are extended home stands of five, four and seven games, respectively, still to be played before April.
With six of the final eight games on the season set to be played on the road, the success at the Times Forum as of late gives the Lightning comfort in knowing that 26 of the remaining 46 games in 2011-12 will be played at home, including Saturday’s contest against the Hurricanes.
“That’s big for us,” Moore added. “We have a great atmosphere at home and great fans. You get a goal, you get a little bit of momentum, and some teams thrive on that, so we’re very fortunate to have that coming up on the schedule.” And on Saturday, too.