LIGHTNING (35-34-7) at DEVILS (43-28-6)
TV: SUN (HD), MSG (HD)
Tampa Bay 4-5-1; New Jersey 5-4-1
This is the fourth and final meeting between the teams. The Devils won both games in Tampa Bay on Nov. 19 and Dec. 12 and the Lightning scored a 4-3 victory at Prudential Center on Feb. 26. Martin St. Louis
registered a hat trick and assisted on the other goal to lead the Lightning. Devils goalie Martin Brodeur
faced only 16 shots.
The Lightning aren't officially out of the playoff race but the odds are slim to none of them qualifying for the second straight season with six games remaining and the club sitting nine points behind eighth-seeded Buffalo. The Devils, meanwhile, scored a huge shootout victory over Chicago on Tuesday to move four points ahead of idle Ottawa with five games remaining.
The Lightning suffered their 20th regulation loss on the road this season following a 5-2 setback to the Boston Bruins on Tuesday. Tampa Bay is 11-20-5 away from home this season with four of the final six games away from Tampa Bay Times Forum. Center Vincent Lecavalier
skated for the third straight day on Tuesday and is eyeing a return to the lineup against the Devils. Lecavalier has been sidelined since Feb. 18 with a fracture in his right hand.
Devils: Petr Sykora
was dropped to the fourth line on Tuesday and scored the team's only goal on the power play in a 2-1 shootout victory over the Blackhawks at Prudential Center. Centers Patrik Elias
and Travis Zajac
scored in a five-round shootout, and goalie Martin Brodeur
, who made 37 saves in regulation and overtime, added to his NHL record for wins and shootout wins. Defenseman Adam Larsson
was a healthy scratch for the first time this season as coach Peter DeBoer decided to give his rookie a break from what he hopes will be a long playoff run.
"You don't get to this stage by just jumping in … you go through a progression and the progression when he came back from (an upper-body) injury was to try and let him fight through some of the inconsistencies," DeBoer said. "But at some point, you have to take a different approach and that's where we're at. He handled it well in our conversation, and I'm confident he'll bounce back."
Stamkos has scored 5 goals in his last three games, increasing his lead in the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy to nine goals over Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin. Stamkos has already set the all-time franchise record for goals in a season with 55. He broke the former mark of 52 set by Lecavalier in 2006-07.
Lecavalier (hand), Nate Thompson
(upper body) and Adam Hall
(upper body) are day-to-day for the Lightning. Mattias Ohlund
(knees), Dana Tyrell
(knee), Marc-Andre Bergeron
(back), Mathieu Garon
(lower body) and Ryan Shannon
(upper body) are out. … For the Devils, defenseman Anton Volchenkov
(lower body) is questionable and Henrik Tallinder
(blood clot) is out.
Devils captain Zach Parise
became just the second player in team history to record five 30-goal seasons when he connected in a loss to the Penguins on Sunday. John MacLean posted five 30-goal campaigns over an eight-year span from 1986-87 through 1993-94. Parise reached the mark during five of the last six seasons, including a career-high 45 goals in 2008-09.
"We're giving it our all, and there's not much more we can ask from our guys," Stamkos said following his team's loss to the Bruins on Tuesday. "That seems to be the theme the last couple of games, and we've won the last three of four, so I guess that doesn't matter when you're winning."