LIGHTNING (18-24-4) at BRUINS (27-13-5)
TV: FS-F, NESN
Last 10: Tampa Bay 2-6-2; Boston 4-5-1
Season series: Third and final meeting of the regular season. This game was originally scheduled for Feb. 9 and postponed due to a snowstorm. The Boston Bruins have won the two games played since, Brad Marchand scoring the decisive goal in both contests.
Big story: The Bruins begin a stretch of three games in four days to end the regular season, two of which are make-ups. After hosting the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday, they travel to play the Washington Capitals on Saturday before returning to TD Garden for a Sunday date with the Ottawa Senators, a game postponed in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. The Bruins are tied in points atop the Northeast Division with the Montreal Canadiens, but hold a game in hand.
Lightning: Although Tampa Bay won't be going to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, these final two games still hold their fair share of excitement at least as far as a couple individuals are concerned. The Lightning beat the Maple Leafs 5-2 on Wednesday behind a hat trick by Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos' 29th goal of the season. St. Louis took over the NHL scoring lead with 58 points, while Stamkos added an assist to tie injured Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby for second with 56 points. Stamkos is also two goals behind League leader Alex Ovechkin. Rookie defenseman Radko Gudas sparked a three-goal third with the game-winner.
"It's just a pleasure to have him on your team," coach Jon Cooper said of St. Louis. "I'm his coach, but when you step outside the coaching realm, how can you not be a fan of what he does. We needed a boost tonight and he gave it to us."
Bruins: Coming down the stretch neither Boston nor Montreal has done a lot to suggest it is interested in claiming the division crown and the No. 2 seed that comes with it. The Bruins are in good shape, though, if they can build on their 15-4-3 home mark over these final days. They were beaten 5-2 in Philadelphia on Tuesday by a Flyers team also on the outside of the playoff picture. Anton Khudobin was pulled after yielding three goals on 17 shots and only Wade Redden and David Krejci were able to put pucks past Steve Mason out of Boston's 41 shots.
"These last three games, we need a wakeup call mentally and we need to be willing to do the stuff that's given us success," coach Claude Julien said in the Boston Herald. "Right now, we have it sometimes but we don't have it all the times."
Who's hot: St. Louis has five goals in the past four games for the Lightning. … Jaromir Jagr has two goals and nine points in 10 games since joining the Bruins, while Carl Soderberg has two assists in his first three games with the team.
Injury report: Boston forward Nathan Horton (hand) has missed the past two games.