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Lightning go for three in a row vs. Red Wings

by Brian Hunter

LIGHTNING (18-11-3) at RED WINGS (15-10-9)


Last 10: Tampa Bay 4-3-3; Detroit 5-3-2

Season series: This is the third of five games this season between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings. The first two have been decided after regulation and won by the Lightning. Teddy Purcell scored in overtime for a 3-2 victory in Detroit on Nov. 9, and Martin St. Louis had the decisive shootout goal in a 2-1 win at Tampa on Dec. 12.

Big story: Steven Stamkos won't play Sunday, no surprise since it's only been a little over a month since the Lightning superstar broke his right tibia in a game against the Boston Bruins. However, Stamkos skated briefly Saturday for the first time since the injury, giving Tampa Bay, its fan base and all those pulling for Canada in the 2014 Sochi Olympics hope he may return sooner than originally expected. Tampa Bay faces a challenge Sunday: The Lightning are 1-5-2 on the road since he left the lineup.

"We've got to win on the road," coach Jon Cooper said. "You've got to be an above .500 team on the road. We were that for a little while and now obviously we've dipped. What we have to do is turn the page, though."

Team Scope:

Lightning: Ben Bishop figures to be back in goal after Anders Lindback got the start Saturday against the New Jersey Devils. Lindback kept the game scoreless late into the second period, but on a night when his counterpart, Martin Brodeur, extended his NHL record for career shutouts to 124, there was no margin for error in what ended up a 3-0 loss. Coach Jon Cooper pulled Lindback with more than four minutes left in regulation, but even the extended 6-on-5 advantage wasn't enough to allow the Lightning to break through.

Red Wings: Instead of being a house of horrors for opposing teams this season, Joe Louis Arena has provided Detroit anything but a home-ice advantage. With a 4-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, the Red Wings dropped to an unsightly 5-7-6 in their own arena. They also lost another key player, as forward Justin Abdelkader was injured on a hit late in the first period by Penguins defenseman Deryk Engelland that drew a match penalty. Coach Mike Babcock said Abdelkader was going through the concussion protocol and would not play Sunday. Jonas Gustavsson, the No. 1 with Jimmy Howard sidelined by a knee sprain, lost for just the second time in regulation.

"When you let four goals in it's tough to win," Gustavsson said. "I got to be better."

Who's hot: Nikita Kucherov had goals in consecutive games for the Lightning this past week, Dec. 10 against the Washington Capitals and Dec. 12 against the Red Wings. … Prior to his outing Saturday, Gustavsson had given up two goals or less in six consecutive starts for the Red Wings and was 4-1-1 over that span.

Injury report: Stamkos remains on injured reserve for Tampa Bay along with defenseman Keith Aulie (hand) and forwards Tom Pyatt (collarbone) and Ryan Malone (ankle). Also out is defenseman Victor Hedman (lower body). … In addition to Howard (knee) and Abdelkader (head) being out, Detroit has defenseman Danny DeKeyser (shoulder) and forwards Henrik Zetterberg (herniated disc) and Stephen Weiss (groin) on injured reserve. Forward Darren Helm (shoulder) is also out. The Red Wings hope DeKeyser and Helm can return shortly after Christmas.

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