The Tampa Bay Lightning may be mired in a three-game losing slump currently, but tonight's opponent at AMALIE Arena provides the perfect tonic for the Bolts to get back in the win column.
The Lightning have won four-straight games at home over the Anaheim Ducks. The Bolts have scored five goals in each of the last three home victories over Anaheim, outscoring the Ducks a combined 15-5 over those three games.
The Lightning, in fact, haven't lost in regulation at home to Anaheim since a 4-3 defeat on December 9, 2006, going 4-0-1 since.
"It's hard to explain why," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "We only play them twice in a year. We don't see them very often. We've never seen them in the playoffs. It's a long way to go; we're two of the farther teams apart from each other. But, hopefully history repeats itself, and we'll see it again tonight."
The Lightning faced Anaheim 18 days ago in Southern California and dropped a 2-1 overtime decision, Rickard Rakell netting the game-winning goal on a 4-on-3 power play 54 seconds into the extra session. But the Lightning have been pretty good in Anaheim too, going 3-0-4 since their last regulation loss during the 2005-06 season.
Overall, the Lightning are 7-0-5 in their last 12 games against the Ducks.
"We really liked the way we played, especially coming off a back-to-back," Cooper said of the Bolts' mid-January loss to Anaheim. "We had a good win in L.A., and we carried that right into the Anaheim game. Unfortunately, goals were hard to come by on that trip, and that was one of those games. But I liked our defensive effort, and we competed for 60-plus minutes."
Ben Bishop was the first Lightning goaltender off the ice from Saturday's morning skate and will likely get the start in net tonight. Bishop, too, has historically found success against the Ducks, going 6-0-2 with a 1.15 goals-against average and .960 save percentage in eight appearances.
Video: Cooper on Palat's injury statusPALAT DAY-TO-DAY: Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat suffered an injury late in the Bolts' 5-2 loss to Ottawa on Thursday and will likely not play tonight according to Cooper.
He missed Tampa Bay's morning skate Saturday and is considered day-to-day.
Joel Vermin was recalled from AHL Syracuse Saturday morning in case Palat can't go.
"Really good chance Palat's not playing tonight," Cooper said. "Then we'll just keep re-evaluating after that."
Palat has 10 goals and 15 assists through 47 games this season. He sat out five games with an undisclosed injury right before the holiday break but hasn't missed a start otherwise.
Vermin is on his third recall to the Lightning. The 5-foot-11, 192-pound forward has played nine games with Tampa Bay this season, recording two assists and a plus-two rating.
SPRINGBOARD TO SUCCESS: The Lightning haven't won back-to-back games since defeating Detroit and St. Louis Dec. 20 and 22. Before that, the Bolts last win streak came in mid-November when they won four in a row.
Perhaps if the Lightning can string together consecutive victories, it will lift them to a lengthy win streak that will get them right back into playoff position.
"For that confidence and getting back to that winning mentality, we obviously have to start winning games, and I think that can catapult us forward," Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. "But it's a tough league and you've got to approach every game and can't really focus too much on what's happened in the past. You've just got to focus on what lies ahead, and for us it's the game tonight."
Tampa Bay's schedule lightens a bit following tonight's game. The Lightning will have two days off before hosting Los Angeles in the final game of a four-game home stand. Then they'll play a road back-to-back in Minnesota and Winnipeg starting Friday before going on a week-long break built into the schedule because of this summer's World Cup of Hockey.
The Bolts would like to go on a win streak to give themselves momentum heading into the break and a chance once they exit to remain in striking distance of a postseason spot.
"We've got to put full focus on (tonight), and then we'll get two days before another big game against L.A.," Hedman said. "We've got to empty the tank tonight because we have plenty of time to refuel."
Video: Johnson on importance of face-offsICE CHIPS: Michael Bournival continues to wear a red no-contact jersey during practice. Bournival has missed the last three games with an upper-body injury…Brayden Point has scored three goals over his last six games, including a goal in each of the last two games, after recording just two in his first 32 career games…Tyler Johnson picked up a point in the Bolts' 5-2 loss Thursday to Ottawa and needs just two more to reach 200 points for his career…Victor Hedman ranks third among NHL defensemen for scoring with 41 points, trailing only San Jose's Brent Burns (55) and Erik Karlsson of Ottawa (44).