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Lightning-Bruins Preview

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The Boston Bruins opened the 2007-08 season with a winning road trip. On Thursday night, they'll come home to play a team they've dominated there.

Boston will finally play its home opener this season when it meets the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Banknorth Garden.

Though the Bruins finished last in the Northeast Division in 2006-07 for the second straight season, they swept the four-game series from Tampa Bay. Boston is 19-2-0 with six ties all time at home against Tampa Bay. Playing in home openers, the Bruins are 42-20-0 with 20 ties.

Over the past two seasons, Boston is a .500 team - 34-34-15 - at home. First-year coach Claude Julien said the Bruins need to quickly improve there.

"I think that is what we have to do now, establish an identity and a presence at home (and be) a hard team to beat in our own building," he told the Bruins' official Web site. "And that's what we have to do starting (Thursday)."

Boston (3-2-0) wrapped up its road trip with a 2-1 victory over San Jose on Saturday. Aaron Ward scored the game-winner with 12 seconds left in regulation, just 26 seconds after the Sharks tied the score.

The Bruins tallied 10 goals in winning the final two games of the trip after dropping two of the first three.

"It's early but this is a good sign," said goaltender Tim Thomas, who recorded 26 saves against the Sharks and was 38 seconds away from recording his fifth career shutout.

Thomas and newcomer Manny Fernandez continue to vie for the job as Bruins starting goaltender, but Julien probably will go with Thomas for this game. He went 2-0-0 with a 2.13 goals-against average in two home starts against Tampa Bay last season, and is 3-1-0 with a 3.33 GAA all-time against the Lightning.

Fernandez, meanwhile, is 1-2-0 with a 3.03 GAA in three starts all-time versus Tampa Bay (3-1-0).

Marc Savard, Boston's leading scorer with 74 assists and 96 points last season, had two goals and seven assists in the four-game set against Tampa Bay. That included a career high-tying five-point effort on Nov. 4 in a 6-5 overtime win at home over the Lightning.

Tampa Bay's season-opening three-game winning streak ended Saturday with a 6-4 loss to Florida. Vaclav Prospal scored twice during a three-goal third period that drew the Lightning within one goal at 5-4, but Marc Denis - who replaced an ineffective Johan Holmqvist earlier in the game - was beaten by Olli Jokinen with less than 7 1-2 minutes to play.

The loss was Tampa Bay's eighth in nine games on the Panthers' home ice since the start of the 2005-06 season.

"We don't play as well as we should (there), that's for sure," said Tampa Bay center Vincent Lecavalier, who had two assists. "But we have to stop thinking that when we come here we don't play well. That's not the way we should approach the game."

Prospal has five goals in four games after scoring just 14 in 82 last season. He also has two goals and six assists in a six-game points streak in Boston dating back to December 2002.

Lecavalier had seven assists in four games versus the Bruins last season, but just one of his league-leading 52 goals.

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