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Bolts' Stamkos continues Richard Trophy chase

by Mike G. Morreale

SENATORS (44-31-5) at LIGHTNING (31-36-12)

Last 10 -- Ottawa 7-3-0; Tampa Bay 3-7-0

Season series -- The home team has won each of the three previous meetings, though the clubs haven't played in four months. Most recently, the Senators won 3-2 in overtime on Nov. 5 on Jason Spezza's power-play goal with 43 seconds remaining in the extra session. The Senators beat the Lightning 7-1 atScotiabank Place on Oct. 15, and TampaBay beat Ottawa 5-2 at the St. Pete Times Forum two weeks later. Ottawa won three of four games in 2008-09, including one in overtime.

Big story -- Neither team has anything to play for, but Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos, whose 62 goals since Feb. 17, 2009, lead the League, is still in the running for the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the NHL's leading goal-scorer. He enters the game with 47 goals -- one behind leaders Alex Ovechkin of Washington and Sidney Crosby of Pittsburgh. The Lightning have three games remaining.

Team Scope

Senators -- Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson celebrated his 1,000th NHL game on Tuesday with a 5-2 victory over the Florida Panthers. Mike Fisher scored twice and Jarkko Ruutu, Erik Karlsson and Chris Neil once for the Senators, winners of seven of their last eight. Alfredsson, who notched one assist in the game, scored the first goal of his NHL career on Oct. 13, 1995, against the Panthers. He has 375 goals and 990 points in 1,000 games spanning 13-plus seasons with the Sens.

"It feels great to win and you'll remember this game fondly," Alfredsson said. "Everybody's in a good mood after and congratulating me and happy for the win. It was a great day from the morning skate until now."

Lightning -- The Lightning will be on the outside looking in on the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third straight season. The club dropped an 8-5 decision to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday despite the fact Stamkos recorded his 47th of the season to keep pace with Crosby and Ovechkin in the goal-scoring race. Carolina scored five goals in the first period, including three in a span of 1:43. Brandon Bochenski scored twice for TampaBay, which is 5-15-1 in its last 21 games and has allowed 13 goals in its previous two contests.

"To put it mildly, that was pretty tough to watch," Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said. "I feel sorry for the fans on this one."

Who's hot -- Ottawa forward Jason Spezza has notched 6 goals and 16 points in his last nine games.

Injury report -- Tampa Bay defenseman David Hale (lower body) is out and defenseman Victor Hedman (hip flexor) is doubtful. The Senators are without forward Milan Michalek (left knee) and defenseman Filip Kuba (back surgery).

Stat pack -- Lightning forward Zenon Konopka set the franchise record for penalty minutes in a season after compiling 12 more minutes on Tuesday against Carolina -- boosting his 71-game total to 260. The previous mark was held by Enrico Ciccone, who amassed 258 in 1995-96.

Puck drop -- Ottawa goalie Pascal Leclaire made 23 saves in a 5-2 victory over Florida on Tuesday to earn his first triumph since  a 3-2 shootout win over the Islanders on New Year's Eve.

"The first period I felt a little rusty but as the game went on, I felt a little better, I was feeling pretty much myself," Leclaire said. "I think it was important just to get the win. It was a special night for (Alfredsson) and you want to make sure they get a good souvenir out of it."

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