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Blue Jackets, Lightning can climb standings

by Brian Hunter

BLUE JACKETS (42-31-7) at LIGHTNING (44-27-9)


Last 10: Columbus 6-3-1; Tampa Bay 5-3-2

Season series: This is the third and final game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Tampa Bay Lightning. Steven Stamkos missed the first two, and the Lightning offense managed two total goals in losing each to the Blue Jackets.

Big story: Each team has clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but there's still plenty at stake. The Blue Jackets can pass the idle Philadelphia Flyers for third place in the Metropolitan Division, and the Lightning can jump the Montreal Canadiens into second in the Atlantic.

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Blue Jackets: Before Columbus can set its sights on winning the first postseason game in Blue Jackets history (they were swept in their only other playoff appearance in 2009 by the Detroit Red Wings), there are two regular-season games left to be played.

The Blue Jackets will be going for a fourth straight win, which would be their longest streak since taking eight in a row from Jan. 6-23. They can also eclipse the franchise record of 92 points established in 2008-09.

"It's a great accomplishment for our team," coach Todd Richards said after clinching Wednesday via a 3-1 win against the Dallas Stars. "But to me it's just the first step. When we set out back in September, the first thing we talked about was winning the Stanley Cup, but you've got to make the playoffs.

"To me it's always about looking up. We're in the seventh spot. We're going to try to move up."

Lightning: This is the home finale in the regular season for Tampa Bay, which closes Sunday at the Washington Capitals. The Lightning control their own destiny as far as finishing second and gaining home-ice advantage in their first-round series with the Canadiens -- they have two games remaining to one for Montreal.

With No. 1 goalie Ben Bishop questionable for the start of the playoffs, Anders Lindback turned in a confidence-building performance Thursday with 34 saves in a 4-2 win against the Flyers. Stamkos scored his 25th goal in his 35th game.

"Every shot I get it feels like I'm getting more in the rhythm of the game," Lindback said. "You see it differently than when you only play once in a while."

Who's hot: Blue Jackets forward Mark Letestu has goals in three consecutive games. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has won four of his past five starts, including two shutouts. … Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (one goal, five assists) and Stamkos (two goals, two assists) each has a three-game point streak.

Injury report: Columbus forward Nathan Horton had abdominal surgery Friday and will miss six weeks. Defenseman Nikita Nikitin (lower body) is day-to-day. Forward RJ Umberger (lower body) is out indefinitely. Forward Nick Foligno (lower body) will begin skating this weekend. … Tampa Bay defenseman Sami Salo (upper body) could play in the season finale Sunday. Bishop (upper body) is out until at least the first round of the playoffs.

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