The Tampa Bay Lightning are not playing like the team with the worst road record in the NHL.
|Brad Richards (left) and a healthy Ilya Kovalchuk figure prominently in their teams' playoff prospects. (AP Photo/Gregory Smith)
The surging Lightning hope their recent strong play away from home will continue as they try to avoid a fourth straight loss to the Atlanta Thrashers when the Southeast Division rivals meet Saturday night.
Tampa Bay (23-27-5) won 2-1 in overtime at Nashville on Thursday for its sixth straight road win after starting the season 3-14-3 away from the St. Pete Times Forum.
Although the Lightning still have the league's worst road record and remain last in the Eastern Conference overall with 51 points, playing in the weak Southeast gives them hope. No team in the division has more than 60 points.
"We know where we are at," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "We've won a couple of road games here, and with our division the way it is, it gives us a chance to stay in the hunt."
Tampa Bay, which has outscored its opponents 22-11 during its five-game road winning streak, is also 8-5-0 overall since an 0-5-2 slump.
On Thursday, Vaclav Prospal scored 58 seconds into overtime, while Brad Richards had a goal and an assist for the Lightning, who haven't won seven in a row on the road since Jan. 7-Feb. 1, 2007.
"We are still in it, there is a lot of hockey left," said Richards, who has three goals and three assists versus Atlanta this season. "We have to get it in our heads that we haven't accomplished anything yet. The road has been good. We have to put some more together."
The Lightning will try to snap a three-game losing streak at Atlanta, although they've earned a point in two of those contests. In the most recent meeting on Dec. 18, Tampa Bay lost 6-2.
Lightning goalie Johan Holmqvist, who made 18 saves for his second straight win Thursday, was pulled after allowing three goals on nine shots the Dec. 18 game. Holmqvist, who has won six of his last seven decisions, is 2-2-1 with a 3.66 goals-against average versus the Thrashers in 2007-08.
|Johan Holmqvist was pulled in his last meeting with the Thrashers in December, but has won six of his last seven decisions. (AP Photo/Gregory Smith)
Atlanta (26-27-4) holds a 3-2-0 edge in the season series with the Lightning.
The Thrashers, who have five more points than Tampa Bay, look to avoid a third straight loss overall after falling 2-1 at home to Vancouver on Thursday - two nights after a 3-2 loss at home to Philadelphia.
"It's bad to lose two in a row, especially when we're in both games," said goalie Kari Lehtonen, who made 26 saves, but has allowed five goals in two games since shutting out Washington 2-0 last Saturday. "It's the time of year when we really have to get the points, and it's terrible that we didn't."
Pascal Dupuis scored for Atlanta on Thursday to snap a string of eight games without a point. He has two goals and an assist versus Tampa Bay this season.
Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk, second in the NHL with 39 goals, has six goals and three assists against the Lightning in 2007-08.