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St. Louis tries to wrap up scoring title vs. Panthers

by Brian Hunter /

PANTHERS (14-27-6) at LIGHTNING (18-25-4)


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

Season series: Fifth and final meeting of the season between these Southeast Division rivals. The Tampa Bay Lightning have taken three of four from the Florida Panthers, led by six points apiece from Martin St. Louis and Teddy Purcell. Tomas Kopecky of the Panthers has a series-leading three goals.

Big story: St. Louis could wrap up the scoring title -- assuming his own teammate doesn't pass him. St. Louis enters Saturday with 58 points, two more than Steven Stamkos. Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby also has 56 with one game remaining, but it isn't known if he'll play in it.

Team Scope:

Panthers: Regardless of what happens in the season finale, Florida will enter Monday's NHL Draft Lottery with the best chance of securing the No. 1 pick, as the Panthers are guaranteed of finishing with the fewest points in the League. They wrapped up their home schedule Thursday with a 4-0 loss to the Maple Leafs, the seventh time this season they were shut out.

"That's a lot," coach Kevin Dineen said. "It's something we continually address. Unfortunately that is a continuing struggle for us to find ways to produce offense. It's got to come from the group, we can't keep leaning on the same people. It's not going to be a top-10 highlight, we'll take the ugly part. We'll have to keep striving for that."

Lightning: In one of the more quirky statistics to come out of this season, Tampa Bay actually has an even goal differential (145 for, 145 against) -- by contrast, every other non-playoff team is in the negative and the Panthers are a whopping minus-61 (107 for, 168 against). Regardless, the Lightning have also stumbled down the stretch and come in off a shutout defeat, 2-0 in Boston on Thursday. Anders Lindback turned in a solid effort, making 22 saves.

"I think we played a pretty solid game on the road against a good team," Stamkos said. "You know, they didn't go in. We had some good chances so their goalie played well. It's just one of those games that you have to take the positives. We made a couple of mistakes that ended up in our net, but other than that it was a pretty solid game against a good team."

Who's hot: The 37-year-old St. Louis has the opportunity to become the oldest Art Ross Trophy winner in NHL history. Bill Cook of the New York Rangers, at 36, led the League in scoring during the 1932-33 season. St. Louis is also first with 42 assists and he's been on a goal-scoring tear of late, with seven in as many games.

Injury report: Florida recently added a pair of defensemen to its season-long litany of injuries: Dmitry Kulikov (upper body) and Erik Gudbranson (hand). … Tampa Bay forward Ryan Malone (illness) has missed the past two games.

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