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Panthers-Lightning Preview @NHLdotcom
Panthers-Lightning Preview

GAME: Florida Panthers (18-24-7) at Tampa Bay Lightning (25-20-3).

TIME: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

Coming off a road trip which may help get their season back on track, the Tampa Bay Lightning return home seeking their fourth consecutive victory when they meet the struggling Florida Panthers.

The Lightning suffered their ninth loss in 13 games with a 3-1 defeat at San Jose last Monday to open their four-game trip. Despite playing just its second game in nine days, Tampa Bay looked sluggish for most of the contest and coach John Tortorella was furious with his team.

Tortorella's club responded with three straight victories to close the trip, winning at Los Angeles, Dallas and Atlanta. The Lightning are 5-for-16 on the power play during the win streak after going scoreless in 38 straight man-advantage opportunities over the previous eight games.

Vincent Lecavalier and Fredrik Modin scored power-play goals on Saturday in Tampa Bay's 2-0 victory over the Thrashers.

"We're not trying to do anything fancy," Modin said. "We're just chipping away."

The Lightning have not allowed a power-play goal in four straight games.

John Grahame, splitting starts this month with Sean Burke after struggling in December, had 20 saves to shut out Atlanta for the second time this season. Grahame, a U.S. Olympic goalie, may be close to reclaiming the No. 1 goaltender tag, going 3-1-0 with a 1.55 goals-against average and .945 save percentage in January.

The Lightning are 9-4-2 against Southeast Division rivals this season, but have split two meetings with the Panthers.

Tampa Bay has not lost in its last seven home games against Florida, owner of the league's worst road record this season at 5-18-4.

The Panthers have dropped three straight overall and are coming off a 1-0 loss to Anaheim on Saturday.

"We battled hard tonight, but we couldn't score," said Florida goaltender Roberto Luongo, who stopped 30 shots.

It was the sixth shutout loss of the season for the Panthers and third in their last eight outings, a stretch during which they've averaged just 2.0 goals a game.

After opening the season with back-to-back shutouts, including one against the Lighting, Luongo has yet to shut out another opponent.

Luongo is 5-14-4 on the road this season with a 3.40 GAA, while the Panthers are averaging 2.1 goals in road games, second-worst in the league.

The Panthers played the Ducks without left wing Gary Roberts, who sprained his right knee in a collision with teammate Sean Hill during the first minute of Thursday's 6-3 loss at Phoenix and could be out a few weeks. Roberts is Florida's third-leading scorer with 11 goals and 17 assists.

Panthers leading scorer Olli Jokinen has two goals and four assists in his last four games against the Lightning.

STANDINGS: Panthers - 43 points, 4th place, 27 PB, Southeast Division. Lightning - 53 points, 2nd place, 17 PB, Southeast Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Panthers - Jokinen, 21 goals, 28 assists and 49 points; Chris Gratton, 67 PIM. Lightning - Lecavalier, 20 goals; Vaclav Prospal, 35 assists and 52 points; Pavel Kubina, 70 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Panthers - Power play: 15.0 percent (38 for 254), 26th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.2 percent (258 for 314), 16th. Lightning - Power play: 14.1 percent (40 for 284), 27th. Penalty killing: 82.7 percent (196 for 237), 13th.

GOALTENDERS: Panthers - Luongo (18-20-7, 2 SO, 3.05 GAA); Jamie McLennan (0-4-0, 0, 3.09). Lightning - Grahame (18-14-1, 3, 2.78); Burke (7-5-2, 0, 2.69).


LAST MEETING: Oct. 8; Lightning, 2-1. At Tampa, Fla., Modin and Martin St. Louis scored goals for the Lightning, and Grahame made 28 saves.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Panthers - 5-18-4 on the road; Lightning - 12-9-1 at home.

Associated Press
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