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Improved Lightning visit struggling Predators

by Sergei J. Feldman /

LIGHTNING (4-3-2) at PREDATORS (3-4-1)


Season Series: This is the only meeting of the season between the clubs. In last season's only rendezvous, Nashville won 4-3 in Tampa. The Predators have won the last two meetings after losing four in a row.

Big Story: The Lightning are aiming for their fourth win in a row as they skate into Nashville, where the Predators are playing the second of a three-game homestand. They opened with a 3-1 loss to San Jose on Tuesday.

Team Scope:

Lightning: The Lightning appear to have shaken off their early-season slump. After winning just one of their first six games, the Bolts have won three in a row, beating the New York Islanders 4-1 before sweeping a home-and-home series with Buffalo. The Lightning won 3-0 in Tampa Bay on Saturday, then spotted the Sabres a quick 2-0 lead before rallying for a 4-3 comeback win. Most impressive has been the play of netminder Mathieu Garon, who is threatening to take more time from starter Dwayne Roloson.

"He's definitely a great goalie," captain Vincent Lecavalier said. "He's making the big saves and it's been tough to score on him lately. He's really good to begin with, but now he's getting his confidence back so that makes him even tougher to beat. Between him and Roloson, that's a pretty good duo."

Predators: While the Lightning are surging, the Predators are struggling, having amassed a total of three points in their past six games, including the loss to San Jose. After trailing for most of the game against the Sharks, Craig Smith tied the game in the third period. But Joe Pavelski tallied the eventual game-winner before collecting an empty netter to seal the deal. Preds goalie Pekka Rinne wished he could take Pavelski's goal back after the game.

""It was the next shift and it was in the back of our net," he said. "It is a tough one to take. I can only talk about myself, and I am disappointed how it ended for myself. I can't let that kind of goal in."

Who's Hot: On a team with stars like Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Lecavalier, the Lightning have been led by defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron, who has 10 points so far, including points in his past five outings. … Left wing Sergei Kostitsyn has helped the Preds' offense, producing three points in his past five games, including two goals.

Injury Report: Tampa Bay defenseman Mattias Ohlund remains out indefinitely after having surgery on both knees. … Cal O'Reilly (groin), Martin Erat (upper body) and Roman Josi (wrist) are all day-to-day for the Predators.

Stat Pack: Bergeron not only leads the Lightning in points, but he's tops among all defenseman in the NHL.

Puck Drop: Neither Tampa Bay goaltender has had much recent success against Nashville. Garon is 0-6-2 with a 3.67 goals-against average in his last eight games since against the Predators; he hasn't beaten Nashville in more than six years. Roloson is 1-6-1 with a 3.48 GAA in his last eight decisions during the past six seasons.

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