Since the beginning of the 2010-11 season, the Tampa Bay Lightning have enjoyed unprecedented success against the Philadelphia Flyers, tonight’s opponent at Amalie Arena.
The Bolts are 7-0-1 in their last eight at home against the Flyers and have out-scored Philly 31-13 during that stretch.
“I think we’ve had a lot of success as a team in this building no matter who we’re playing,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “We have a pretty good home record I think if you look at the last three seasons. We want to make it tough for teams to come in here and play. Obviously the fans are a big part of that and the atmosphere we’re able to build off as players. But, I think we utilize the home ice pretty good.”
Tampa Bay scored three victories in three games against the Flyers a season ago by a combined 14-7 score.
“They’re a real pressure-oriented team,” Flyers head coach Craig Berube said. “They’re a fast team. Five men pressure everywhere. For us to have success tonight, we’re going to have to really be good at handling that pressure with composure and with support with the puck and without the puck. We’re going to have to grind it out in the first period.”
Both teams enter tonight’s matchup on a high. The Flyers have won three-straight, including a victory over the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings in their last outing. The Bolts have won three of four.
“(The Flyers) just keep throwing waves and waves of forwards that play really hard,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “We have to be ready for that. We have to limit their speed in the neutral zone or it’s going to be a long night. This should be a really good challenge because they’re a playoff team from last year. They took the conference champs [New York Rangers] to seven games [in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals]. It could have easily have been them that won Game 7 last year, so this should be a really good test.”
The Lightning are 3-1-1 so far this season at Amalie Arena.
“You have to win at home if you want to make the playoffs,” said Bolts goaltender Ben Bishop, who will make his eighth start of the season tonight. “We got off to a fairly good start but now we have a good team in Philly coming in, so it should be a good test for us.”
LECAVALIER RETURNS TO TAMPA BAY
Vincent Lecavalier will be making his third appearance in Amalie Arena since signing a free agent contract with Philadelphia prior to the 2013-14 season.
The 34-year-old center won’t play tonight, however. Lecavalier is recovering from a foot injury and has been out of action since October 13.
“I wanted to play, but it’s tricky,” Lecavalier said. “You don’t want to come back too soon from an injury and make it worse.”
Lecavalier joined the Flyers for pre-game skate Thursday morning.
“It’s still nice to be here and to be in the rink to practice,” he said. “They wanted me to get a couple skates in before I start games. I’m skating better and better, and, hopefully, the next game or next two games – I’m not sure when they’re going to give me the green light – start again.”
Lecavalier still maintains a residence in Tampa and said it was great getting to sleep in his own bed Wednesday night. He said once his career is over, he’d like to return to the area.
“It’s nice to be back,” he said.
Lecavalier, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft who played 14 seasons in Tampa Bay, still owns Lightning franchise records for most goals (383) and power-play goals (112) and was a four-time all-star representative for the Bolts.
“I really enjoyed being here,” Lecavalier said. “It’s a special place and unbelievable organization. You see what they’re doing right now with the team. They’re a good, young [group] and will be good for many years. They’re obviously doing a good job.”
Lecavalier played with Stamkos for five seasons, helping to mentor the future Bolts captain. When asked if Stamkos is the best goal-scorer in the league, Lecavalier replied: “No doubt about it.”
“He’s very humble and he works hard,” Lecavalier said. “I think that’s what makes him successful. He’s driven and focused. He’s not the type of guy that’s going to read about himself and feel good about himself. He wants to always be better.”
Lightning forward Ryan Callahan (lower-body injury) didn’t skate Thursday after putting in a hard session Wednesday at practice.
Callahan’s day off was planned according to Cooper.
“He’s right on course,” Cooper said. “We’re shooting for Saturday [for Callahan’s return]. We’ll see what happens.”
F Brett Connolly (lower-body injury) is still a couple weeks away, though, according to Cooper.
“Connolly is fortnight-to-fortnight,” he said.