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Panthers, Lightning look for push in right direction

by Mike G. Morreale

LIGHTNING (10-14-1) at PANTHERS (7-13-6)


Last 10: Tampa Bay 2-8-0; Florida 2-6-2

Season series: This is the third of five meetings between the Southeast Division rivals. The Lightning have won the opening two games, including a 6-5 overtime decision on Feb. 16 in Sunrise. Benoit Pouliot scored a pair of goals, including the OT winner, and Anders Lindback made 25 saves to give Tampa the latest win.

Big story: Both teams are on the outside looking in on the Eastern Conference playoff race and need to string together some victories. Injury-ridden Florida, the defending Southeast Division champion, has the worst record in the National Hockey League through 26 games. The Lightning, 4-8-0 on the road this season, are 13th in the East with 21 points in 25 matches.

Team Scope:

Lightning: Since starting the season 6-1-0, Tampa Bay is 4-13-1 in the past 18 games and has lost seven of the past eight. On Saturday, the Lightning allowed the Montreal Canadiens to score three unanswered goals in the third period en route to a 4-3 loss at the Tampa Times Forum. The Lightning are one point from last place overall in the League. Cedrick Desjardins made his third career NHL start and took the loss on 25 saves.

"We are not hungry to win right now. We are scared to lose," center Steven Stamkos said. "Going in the third up 3-1, that should almost be automatic, and right now it's not."

Panthers: This marks the finale of a three-game homestand at the BB&T Center. The Panthers lost for the sixth time in seven games and 13th time in 16 following a 5-2 loss to the Canadiens on Sunday to fall to 0-1-1 during their brief stint in Sunrise. Jacob Markstrom made his fourth consecutive start in net for the Panthers since being recalled from the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey League and stopped 33 shots against the Habs.

Who's hot: Martin St. Louis has a point in six straight games (two goals, nine points) for the Lightning. … Rookie forward Jonathan Huberdeau has at least one goal in three of his last five games played. He leads all first-year players with 12 goals and ranks second with 17 points.

Injury report: Pouliot (upper body) is on injured reserve for Tampa Bay. Goalie Mathieu Garon (lower body) is close, but remains questionable against Florida. … The Panthers are without Jose Theodore (groin), center Stephen Weiss (wrist surgery), forward Scottie Upshall (lower body) and defensemen Dmitry Kulikov (hand), Mike Weaver (lower body) and Ed Jovanovski (knee).

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