BRUINS (40-25-3) at LIGHTNING (31-30-7)
TV: NESN (HD), SUN (HD)
Boston 4-5-1; Tampa Bay 5-4-1
The Bruins and Lightning split the first two games of this four-game series with each club getting a win on its respective home ice.
The Bruins will try to protect their lead atop the Northeast Division while attempting to avoid a three-game losing streak. Boston was bit by the injury bug in its last game Sunday against Pittsburgh, but defenseman Adam McQuaid
(upper body) and forwards Max Sauve (lower body) and Patrice Bergeron
(lower body) are all expected to make the trip to the Sunshine State. The Lightning (69 points) are seven points behind the Eastern Conference's eighth-place Washington Capitals, but can start their final push for a playoff berth with a win over the defending Stanley Cup champs.
Boston embarks on a brief two-game road trip against the Lightning and Florida Panthers this week. But despite maintaining their two-point lead in the Northeast standings over the second-place Ottawa Senators, the B's are far from hitting the cruise control button.
Coach Claude Julien and company will look to get things turned around after a tough 5-2 loss at Pittsburgh on Sunday, in which the Bruins played with just 15 skaters for nearly the entire second and third periods due to the injuries to McQuaid, Sauve and Bergeron. Providence Bruins captain Trent Whitfield was recalled Monday on an emergency basis.
"We were caught chasing a two-goal deficit before the game even started," forward Shawn Thornton
told reporters following Sunday's game. "Really it wasn't for lack of effort, just bad bounces … but for the last 40 minutes we played a solid game even with a short bench."
Tampa Bay has not yet fallen into playing the role of spoiler, but it will need to heat up quickly if it hopes to make the playoffs for a second straight season. The Bolts are winless in three straight games, but they do benefit from playing the second of seven straight home games on Tuesday. But if the Lightning are to use the home ice to their advantage, they will need to start turning in better efforts than they received in a 4-2 loss against fellow division rival Carolina on Saturday.
While the Bolts and Canes traded two goals apiece in the first period, things started going south in the third as Carolina rallied for two unanswered goals. Although the stats sheet showed the Lighting with a 38-26 shots on goal advantage, as well as having nearly double the quality scoring chances than the Hurricanes, it wasn't enough to earn the all-important win.
"Our players did everything they could today," coach Guy Boucher told tampabaylightning.com "We outchanced them and outshot them, but we just couldn't beat Cam Ward tonight."
Boston forward Milan Lucic
is in the midst of a seven-game points streak with 2 goals and 7 assists over that span. … Tampa Bay forward Steven Stamkos
continues to lead the NHL with 48 goals this season and has totaled 5 goals and 4 assists over his last seven games.
In addition to the injuries to McQuaid, Sauve and Bergeron, the B's were missing forwards Daniel Paille
(left arm) and Benoit Pouliot
(lower body) on Sunday. Also, goalie Tuukka Rask
(lower body) and forward Rich Peverley
(sprained right MCL) are out, while forward Nathan Horton
is on injured reserve with a concussion. … For the Bolts, captain Vincent Lecavalier
(broken hand) is out, as is goalie Mathieu Garon
(groin) and defensemen Mattias Ohlund
(knees) and Marc-Andre Bergeron
Although Stamkos has played just 311 career games for the Lightning, he sits third on the club's all-time goal list with 167 heading into Tuesday's game.
The Lightning face a tough battle as they attempt a last-minute surge up the East standings, but at least one of the team's veteran players believes that they can get into the playoffs by keeping things as is.
"We got to keep the same work ethic," defenseman Brett Clark
told the team's website after Monday's practice. "We don't have to change a lot. Our lives are on the line, our backs are against the wall and we have to come out fighting right from the start."