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First-place Lightning travel to face Thrashers

by Brian Hunter
LIGHTNING (4-1-1) at THRASHERS (3-3-0)


Season Series:
Second of six meetings this season between the Southeast Division rivals. They previously met in Tampa Bay's home opener, and the Lightning recorded a 5-3 win on Oct. 9 as Steven Stamkos scored twice and added an assist. Steve Downie and Vincent Lecavalier added power-play goals.

Big Story:
Tampa's fast start coupled with a home-and-home sweep by Boston over Washington this week has propelled the Lightning into first place in the Southeast. While it's silly to make too much of that when the Halloween candy hasn't even been distributed yet, it's still reason for fans in the Sunshine State to hope all the hype surrounding their team heading into the season was for good reason.

Team Scope:

It's the second game in as many nights for Tampa Bay, which fell 3-2 in overtime to the visiting New York Islanders on Thursday in a game between Eastern Conference teams off to surprising starts. Matt Moulson's winning goal was originally waved off, but after the next play stoppage a lengthy video review determined the puck crossed the line. The Lightning escaped a shaky first period in a 1-1 tie and took a brief lead in the second, but coach Guy Boucher was less than satisfied with the point they received.

"To be honest with you, I didn't care about the review," Boucher said. "We didn't come out in the first period. We didn't skate. We didn't battle. Half our bench wasn't there. Unacceptable."

Returning from a four-game road trip in which it won the last two, Atlanta never really got going against Buffalo on Wednesday and suffered a 4-1 defeat. The Thrashers fell into a 3-0 hole by giving up a pair of goals 64 seconds apart early in the middle period. A power-play score by Tobias Enstrom at 1:47 of the third proved too little, too late.

"(The neutral zone) was a problem, but we were not good in most areas, really, except for goaltending," defenseman Ron Hainsey said. "It was an issue. We had turnovers in the neutral zone where we lost track of our guy. That was a big problem, the neutral zone, but we were bad in most areas. It was one of those games where we were not good."

Who's Hot: Sean Bergenheim has goals in consecutive games for the Lightning, including one Thursday against the team that drafted him in the first round in 2002, the Islanders. … Enstrom, Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd are all on three-game points streaks for the Thrashers, with 1 goal and 3 assists apiece over that span.

Injury Report:
Lecavalier returned to the lineup for Tampa Bay on Thursday after missing one game with a bruised index finger on his right hand, while defenseman Mattias Ohlund, out with right knee inflammation, is still waiting to make his season debut. … Atlanta goalie Ondrej Pavelec is skating with the team again as he recovers from a concussion, but he's still on injured reserve. Defenseman Zach Bogosian is day-to-day with a shoulder injury.

Stat Pack:
Stamkos, who picked up an assist against the Islanders, enters Friday in a tie for second in the NHL with 10 points, one behind co-leaders Marian Hossa and Sidney Crosby. Stamkos and Crosby tied for the goal-scoring lead last season with 51 each. … The Thrashers have had the edge over their opponent in blocked shots in every game this season, including a 19-9 advantage against the Sabres on Wednesday.

Puck Drop:
Chris Mason has played every minute in net for Atlanta this season after a fainting spell suffered by Pavelec 2:25 into the season opener against Washington and the subsequent concussion he suffered sidelined him. Dan Ellis and Mike Smith have split time for Tampa, and with Ellis starting on Thursday it's likely Smith will get the nod in this one.

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