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Lightning look to get back to winning ways at AMALIE

Tampa Bay has lost three straight games at home during the playoff push

by Bryan Burns /

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been one of the best teams in the NHL at home over the last few seasons and have made AMALIE Arena one of the toughest buildings in the league for opponents to exit with a victory.

Since the start of the 2014-15 season, the Lightning own 76 home victories, more than any other team in the Atlantic Division (Montreal is second with 70).

But during the final push of the regular season to get into the playoffs, the Bolts uncharacteristically dropped three-straight games at home. Their record of late on the road, meanwhile, has been outstanding. Following a pair of victories in Boston and Detroit on a road back-to-back set, the Lightning have won five-straight away from AMALIE Arena and have earned at least a point in 11 of their last 12 road games.

Tampa Bay will look to regain its home-ice advantage tonight when its hosts the Western Division-leading Chicago Blackhawks on Monday (7:30 p.m. puck drop).

"We've made a pretty good run on home ice, and, unfortunately, the last three here didn't go the way we wanted," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "But if you're giving our team a choice if they want to play at home or on the road, we're definitely picking to play at home. It's always a great environment when we play Chicago. I know we only see them twice a year, but anytime you play a team in the Stanley Cup Finals there's going to be a little bit of extra boost to the game. This should be fun. There's a lot on the line for us in this one."

The Lightning haven't lost four in a row at home since dropping five straight from December 28 to January 18 during the 2013-14 season.

Tampa Bay can pick up its 20th home victory of the season with one more win at AMALIE Arena.

"I tell you the feeling flying up to Boston on the plane was a heck of a lot different than the one flying back from Detroit and that was in a 58-hour span," Cooper said. "But it shows a little character of what's going on in that room. The one thing for us is, you've just got to turn the page. It's like a book. Let's see what the next chapter's going to be like and it starts with Chicago."

INJURY (NO) NEWS: The Lightning will still be without the services of forwards Tyler Johnson and Cedric Paquette and defenseman Jason Garrison for tonight's game against the Blackhawks.

None of the three participated in the Bolts' morning skate on Monday. Paquette skated a day earlier during Tampa Bay's practice session Sunday at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum but was absent from Monday's skate.

Cooper said on Monday he had nothing new to report on a timetable for a return for any of the three.

Johnson and Paquette have missed the last eight games with lower-body injuries. Both centermen were injured in the Lightning's home victory over Minnesota on March 9.

Garrison had his leg rolled up in the second period of the Boston victory on Thursday and missed the game the next night at Detroit. Garrison is also dealing with a lower-body injury.

All three players are considered day-to-day.

ANGRY HAWKS: Despite coming into tonight's matchup as the best team in the Western Conference and having already wrapped up a postseason bid, the Chicago Blackhawks will be a motivated team when they face the Lightning.

Chicago was punished at Florida 7-0 on Saturday, the Blackhawks suffering their worst loss since a 9-2 drubbing at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers on November 19, 2011.

The Blackhawks are assured of making the playoffs for a ninth-consecutive season, but the Lightning are expecting to take Chicago's best shot tonight.
"I know if we were coming of a 7-0 loss, we'd be coming out pretty hard," Bolts forward Jonathan Drouin said. "They're a veteran team, and they're going to respond."

The key for the Lightning will be to weather than early storm.

"It's going to be a hard start," Drouin admitted.

ICE CHIPS: Andrei Vasilevskiy was the first Lightning goaltender off the ice from Monday's morning skate, indicating he likely will get the nod in net for the Bolts against Chicago. Vasilevskiy was between the pipes when the Lightning rallied to defeat the Blackhawks 5-2 in Chicago on January 24…Tampa Bay owns a five-game home win streak over Chicago and, overall, hasn't lost in regulation to the Blackhawks since December 13, 2009, going 8-0-2 since…Nikita Kucherov was named the NHL's First Star of the Week after recording five goals and two assists in three games last week.


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