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Lightning to face test from Blues prior to road trip

by Corey Long / NHL.com

BLUES (35-15-4) at LIGHTNING (34-16-6)

TV: NHLN-US, TVA, FS-MW, SUN

TAMPA -- Before the Tampa Bay Lightning embark on their longest road trip of the season they will host the St. Louis Blues at Amalie Arena on Thursday.

The Lightning (34-16-6) are 22-5-1 at home and hold on to a one-point lead over the Montreal Canadiens for first place in the Eastern Conference.

St. Louis (35-15-4) trails the Nashville Predators by four points for the top spot in the Western Conference. The Blues earned a 2-1 overtime win over the Lightning on Feb. 3.

"I thought we were the better team that night, but they got the extra point," Lightning center Steven Stamkos said. "As long as we play the right way and control the play we should be able to put ourselves in position to take the two points [Thursday]."

Tampa Bay will hit the road for two weeks after the game, and Stamkos said the Lightning can improve their play despite earning points in four of five games this month (2-1-2).

"It's always nice to say that we are happy with the point, but in actually we want the two points," Stamkos said. "We want to be a team that other teams fear when we play them, and that means beating some good teams."

Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said he is looking at the February schedule as a measuring stick.

"I think it's a lot of fun to play these teams because they prepare you for the playoffs," Hedman said. "It's going to be tough because we're facing some big teams that are going to try to be physical, but as a competitor it's the challenge you want."

The Blues ended a two-game losing streak with a 2-1 win against the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday. Center Paul Stastny said he expects a better effort Thursday than they had in the earlier game.

"They were way better than us and probably deserved to win the last game," Stastny said. "[Brian Elliott] really stood on his head for us. I think we're better prepared this time and we have to be ready for them because they are one of the two best teams in the East."

Elliott will be starting in goal and has won three out of his past four starts on the road. He had 30 saves in the first game.

"If it wasn't for [Elliott] they could have scored 10 goals in the first game," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We were a step behind most of the night. They play at a pace that if you aren't mentally ready for it you'll be a step behind."

Here are the projected lineups:

BLUES

Alexander Steen - David Backes - T.J. Oshie

Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko

Dmitrij Jaskin - Paul Stastny - Patrik Berglund

Steve Ott - Marcel Goc - Ryan Reaves

Chris Butler - Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson - Jay Bouwmeester

Barret Jackman - Ian Cole

Brian Elliott

Jake Allen

Scratched: Joakim Lindstrom

Injured: Kevin Shattenkirk (abdomen), Chris Porter (leg)

LIGHTNING

Valtteri FilppulaSteven StamkosRyan Callahan

Ondrej PalatTyler JohnsonNikita Kucherov

Alex KillornBrett ConnollyJonathan Drouin

Brenden MorrowBrian BoyleVladislav Namestnikov

Victor HedmanAndrej Sustr

Jason GarrisonNikita Nesterov

Mark BarberioAnton Stralman

Ben Bishop

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Scratched: J.T. Brown, Luke Witkowski

Injured: Cedric Paquette (upper body injury), Matthew Carle (abdominal surgery), Radko Gudas (knee surgery)

Status report: Paquette is expected to return to the lineup next week when the team travels to the West Coast. …Hitchcock said he is going to go with the same lineups Thursday. … Each team participated in an optional skate Thursday.

Who's hot: Kucherov has four points (1 goal, 3 assists) in the past two games. … Jaskin scored the game-winning goal Tuesday against the Coyotes.

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