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Division leaders clash as Lightning host Ducks

by Matthew Mankiewich

DUCKS (15-4-1) at LIGHTNING (13-5-0)


Last 10: Anaheim 8-1-1; Tampa Bay 8-2-0

Season series: This is the first of two meetings between the Anaheim Ducks and Tampa Bay Lightning, who meet again Nov. 22 at Honda Center. Their most recent game, Feb. 21, 2012, a 3-2 Lightning victory at Tampa Bay Times Forum, snapped a three-game Ducks winning streak in the series.

Big story: Each team is off to an excellent start, among the hottest teams in the NHL, yet each suffered a recent setback. Steven Stamkos' broken tibia and successful surgery afterward have dominated NHL headlines, but the Tampa Bay Lightning were able to bounce back with a 2-1 shootout win against the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Tuesday. The Ducks began a four-game Eastern swing without top scorer Ryan Getzlaf and were handed their first regulation loss since Oct. 24, 3-2 by Tim Thomas and the Florida Panthers. The Ducks entered on an 8-0-1 streak.

Team Scope:

Ducks: One Anaheim team had a better 20-game start, and that was last season (15-3-2). Riding a five-game winning streak and a nine-game point streak, the Ducks didn't seem fazed by their cross-country trip, carrying a 2-0 lead into the first intermission Tuesday that could have been 3-0 had Thomas not stoned Corey Perry on a breakaway.

Seventy seconds in the second period changed all that. Shawn Matthias and Scottie Upshall tied the game with goals slightly more than a minute apart, and Brad Boyes put the Panthers ahead in the third, ending their nine-game losing streak and leaving Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau cold.

"I came in after the first period and told them I didn't like the way we were playing at all and if we don't get back to the way we can play, we're going to be in trouble," Boudreau said. "I hate being a prophet, believe me. You could see it happening. At 2-0, they were still close enough that if they got one … when a team is down, they start to feel it, they can be a tough team to beat, whether it's fluky goals or whatever. We dug our own hole today."

Lightning: As troubling as the loss of Stamkos is, he's by no means the sole reason Tampa Bay sits atop the Eastern Conference. The team's goal differential is second to the Boston Bruins in the conference, and Ben Bishop has been a monster in nets with a 12-2-0 record. Not only that, the Lightning are unbeatable when the game goes into overtime or a shootout, posting a 6-0-0 record in extended time. All of that came into play when they came out of Montreal victorious, 2-1 in another shootout.

"This is a team sport, and we are going to move forward; obviously it's a tough spot, but I thought we played well tonight and we could have easily scored more goals, but Carey Price (44 saves) was great," Bishop said. "We hung in there until the end. We get a big goal by [Valtteri Filppula] in the shootout and get a big two points."

Who's hot: Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano has a goal in each of his past four games. Perry had three goals and five assists in five games until Thomas kept him off the scoresheet Tuesday. Forward Nick Bonino has four points in his past four games. … Bishop is on his second five-game winning streak of the season; he leads the League in wins.

Injury report: Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller (flu) is expected to start Thursday. Viktor Fasth, whose recall from the American Hockey League was announced hours before game time, is also an option. Perry (flu) is questionable. Getzlaf (upper body) is out. Saku Koivu (concussion) is on injured reserve but could be available soon. … Lightning defenseman Sami Salo sustained a lower-body injury Monday against the Bruins and is questionable for Thursday. Defenseman Keith Aulie (upper body), also injured Monday, went on IR. Stamkos has no timetable set for returning, but post-surgery estimates place it at three months.

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