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Lightning-Panthers Preview @NHL

Neither Tomas Vokoun nor the Florida Panthers have ever posted three consecutive shutouts, but they might have a reasonable chance to do it with the NHL's lowest-scoring team coming to town.

Vokoun and the Panthers hope to make some history Friday night by blanking their in-state rivals as they host the Tampa Bay Lightning in the opener of a home-and-home set.

In the 16-year history of the franchise, Florida (16-13-4) has yet to shut out its opponent in three straight games. Vokoun has only been with the team for a season and a half, but he's a 10-year NHL veteran who also has never had shutouts in three straight starts.

He notched two in a row for the third time in his career by blanking the team with which he spent the bulk of his career, defeating Nashville 3-0 on Tuesday as he made 27 saves.

"Vokey's moving well. He looks like the dominant goalie we had for years," Predators coach Barry Trotz said.

That win came two days after Vokoun stopped 23 shots in a 3-0 victory over Colorado. He's 3-0-1 with a 0.96 goals-against average in his last four starts for Florida, which has won eight of 11.

"The guys are playing great and it shows," Vokoun told the Panthers' official Web site. "We're playing simple but sound hockey."

He's 6-3-0 with a 1.91 GAA in 11 home games. Vokoun made a season-high 49 saves in a shootout win at Tampa Bay on Nov. 18, and has allowed nine goals on 160 shots in his last four games versus the Lightning.

Tampa Bay has scored a league-low 73 goals - just six in the last four games - and has been shut out four times this season. Vokoun has never blanked the Lightning in 12 starts against them, going 6-5 with one tie and a 2.75 GAA.

These teams were tied with fellow Southeast Division rival Atlanta for second-to-last in the NHL with 19 points on Nov. 28. The Panthers have lost only twice in regulation since then, moving within one point of eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

"It hasn't been easy," Florida center Stephen Weiss said. "But we've climbed out of a pretty big hole."

That's something Tampa Bay (8-16-9) has been unable to do, as it still has the second-fewest points in the league with 25, better than only the New York Islanders (23).

The Lightning have won just twice in their last 11 games, but both victories have come in their last five contests, most recently 2-0 at Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

"It's like a sigh of relief," said Mike Smith, who made 15 saves for his eighth career shutout and first win since Nov. 21. "You almost forget how to win."

While Tampa Bay seeks consecutive victories for the first time since a season-high three-game run from Oct. 28-Nov. 1, Florida looks to match its longest win streak of the season at three games.

The Lightning have lost six of their last seven road games versus the Panthers, and Smith has lost all four starts he's made against them. These teams will also meet Saturday in Tampa.

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