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Devils-Lightning Preview @NHL
Devils-Lightning Preview

GAME: New Jersey Devils (10-9-2) at Tampa Bay Lightning (12-9-3).

TIME: Friday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

Tampa Bay Lightning coach John Tortorella is dishing out a few more compliments these days.

The resurgent Lightning try to give their coach more reason to smile as they open a six-game homestand against the New Jersey Devils.

Since losing six straight, the Lightning have won a season-best four straight and five of six.

"We're playing some of our best hockey of the year," said Tortorella. "It's the type of hockey we need to play - puck control, forechecking and pinching."

Tampa Bay overcame a three-goal deficit and won its first shootout in four tries, 4-3 at Washington on Wednesday as Vaclav Prospal scored the winner.

"They didn't give in," Tortorella said. "They just kept on pushing forward. The thing I liked about it, they didn't try to do too much as individuals to get back in it. They stayed within the team concept."

Dan Boyle scored twice and Rob DiMaio also had a goal for the Lightning, who have points in six straight (5-0-1).

Better defense and goaltending have been the biggest reasons behind Tampa Bay's resurgence.

They allowed 28 goals during the six-game slide in early November, but have surrendered only 14 in the past six contests.

The Lightning have won five straight against the Devils and are 6-0-2 in the last eight meetings. Tampa Bay's last loss to New Jersey came on Nov. 26, 2002, a 5-1 setback.

The Devils experienced an early November skid as well, losing four straight from Nov. 1-8. They also have played better lately, improving to 4-2 in their last six games with a 5-1 victory at Florida on Wednesday.

Colin White, Grant Marshall and Brian Gionta scored in a span of 1:33 in the first period for New Jersey, which is 7-for-19 on the power play in the last three games.

"Once we got up early on them with those three goals, we just stuck with what we were doing," said Gionta, who has six points in the last three games.

The Devils have only allowed 2.40 goals per game in their 10 wins this season, but have allowed 4.36 in their 11 losses.

STANDINGS (through Nov. 24): Devils - 22 points, 4th place, 11 PB, Atlantic Division. Lightning - 27 points, 2nd place, 2 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Devils - Gionta, 14 goals and 23 points; Scott Gomez and Brian Rafalski, 13 assists; Jamie Langenbrunner and Marshall, 28 PIM. Lightning - Prospal, 13 goals, 18 assists and 31 points; Pavel Kubina, 40 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 24): Devils - Power play: 21.9 percent (27 for 123), 3rd in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.5 percent (93 for 110), 7th (tied). Lightning - Power play: 13.0 percent (19 for 146), 27th. Penalty killing: 83.8 percent (104 for 124), 11th.

GOALTENDERS: Devils - Martin Brodeur (8-7-0, 0 SO, 3.36 GAA); Scott Clemmensen (2-2-2, 3.32). Lightning - John Grahame (9-8-1, 1, 2.84); Sean Burke (3-0-2, 1.89).

SEASON SERIES: Lightning, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Oct. 26; Lightning, 6-3. At East Rutherford, N.J., Dave Andreychuk scored two goals and Vincent Lecavalier, Fredrik Modin, Prospal and Martin St. Louis each had a goal and an assist for the Lightning.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Devils - 4-5-1 on the road; Lightning - 5-4-1 at home.

Associated Press
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