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Senators seek to break through against Lightning

by David Kalan

LIGHTNING (31-17-5) at SENATORS (23-20-10)


Last 10: Tampa Bay 5-4-1; Ottawa 5-2-3

Season series: The Tampa Bay Lightning have won each of their first two games this season against the Ottawa Senators, including a 4-3 shootout victory this past Thursday in Tampa Bay.

Big story: The Lightning continue to await updates on the potential return of forward Steven Stamkos, who has been out since November with a broken leg. While Stamkos appears closer to playing by the day, it has not yet been determined if he will get clearance to play a game before the NHL breaks for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, where he has been named to the roster for Canada. As Tampa Bay awaits the return of its sniper, the Lightning have managed to stay among the top rungs of the Eastern Conference ladder, and will look to keep climbing against Ottawa, which is battling inconsistency as it makes a push for a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Team Scope:

Lightning: Monday had the potential to be a big day for Stamkos and the Lightning, as the three-time 40-goal scorer was planning on practicing Monday, but opted against it after feeling soreness in his leg. A day later, Stamkos skated with teammates, and reiterated his hope is to return before the Olympic break, which for the Lightning will begin after they host the Detroit Red Wings on Feb. 8.

"The objective is to play a game," Stamkos said Tuesday. "That's something I would really love to do. But if that's not the case there's going to be another discussion about whether I'm still going to be on that [Olympic] team. We haven't had that. It's more like we'll cross that bridge when we need to."

Without Stamkos in the lineup for much of the season, the Lightning have remained in a fight with the Boston Bruins for the top spot in the Atlantic Division, though Tampa Bay currently trails Boston by four points with one more game played. The Lightning had won three games in a row prior to opening a four-game road trip with a loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night.

After visiting Ottawa the Lightning will face the Montreal Canadiens and Minnesota Wild before returning to Tampa Bay.

Senators: Ottawa has experienced a January full of ups and downs, as the Senators went 4-0-1 in their first five games of 2014, only to win just two of their next six. With three of Ottawa's losses coming in overtime or a shootout this month, however, the Senators have stayed afloat in the postseason race. Ottawa is currently one point behind both Detroit and the Carolina Hurricanes for the East's final Wild Card spot.

The Senators recently finished a four-game road trip by edging the Columbus Blue Jackets, 3-2, on Tuesday night in a win that could have large ramifications in the playoff chase.

"It's huge keeping them off the score sheet for getting a point," goalie Craig Anderson said afterward. "It's one of those things where it's going to be a team we're chasing all year long. To win it in regulation is huge for us."

Who's hot: Lightning forward Ondrej Palat has two goals and five assists in the past four games. … Senators forward Jason Spezza has two goals and three assists in the past four games.

Injury report: Stamkos (broken leg) remains out for Tampa Bay, and Lightning defensemen Brian Lee (knee surgery) and Mattias Ohlund (knee injury) are both on injured reserve. … Senators defenseman Chris Phillips (undisclosed injury) is questionable to face the Lightning, and forward Mark Stone (wrist injury) is on IR.

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