GAME: Tampa Bay Lightning (42-19-8-5) at Boston Bruins (36-17-14-7).
TIME: Saturday, Noon EST.
Having already clinched playoff berths, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston
Bruins will spend the final eight games of the regular season trying to put
themselves in the best possible position.
Tampa Bay continues its chase of the NHL's best record while Boston looks to
extend its slim lead atop the Northeast Division when two of the top teams in
the Eastern Conference meet.
The Southeast Division champion Lightning are tied with Detroit for the
league's best record, and are three points ahead of Philadelphia for the top
seed in the East. Tampa Bay, headed to the playoffs for just the third time in
12 years, has already set franchise records for wins and points in a season.
Publicly challenged by coach John Tortorella to perform better, Nikolai
Khabibulin responded with 25 saves, and Tim Taylor had a goal and an assist in
the Lightning's 3-1 victory over Buffalo on Thursday.
Tortorella wasn't happy with Khabibulin's play in a 3-1 loss to the New York
Islanders on Tuesday.
Thursday's victory snapped a two-game losing streak for Tampa Bay, which has
points in 10 straight road games (7-0-1-2).
"It was a pretty tight game, lots of hitting, and the fans were really into
it," Khabibulin said. "I hope in the last eight games that we play more of
these type of games to get us ready for the playoffs. We wanted to make sure we
did the right things at the right time."
NHL scoring leader Martin St. Louis scored into an empty net with 11 seconds
left for his 86th point of the season, tying the franchise record set by Brian
Bradley in 1992-93.
"When you're in the same sentence as Brian Bradley, it's an honor," St.
Louis said. "But the most important thing is the two points."
Despite allowing only 15 shots, Boston had a six-game unbeaten streak
stopped with a 2-0 loss to visiting Minnesota on Thursday.
It was the ninth time this season and seventh time at home the Bruins were
"We were in their end a lot, but we've got to give them credit because they
did a good job," Boston's Travis Green said. "But we've got to find a way to
Boston, one point ahead of Ottawa and Toronto in the Northeast, has failed
to score more than three goals in 13 straight games.
Ironically, the Bruins were held without a goal on the night one of their
top offensive players returned to the lineup. Left wing Sergei Samsonov played
his first game after missing 15 of 16 contests with a rib injury.
"I thought Sergei played OK," Bruins coach Mike Sullivan said. "He had
the puck a fair amount and I'm sure he's going to get better."
Tampa Bay has points in seven straight meetings with Boston (4-0-2-1).
STANDINGS: Lightning - 97 points, 1st place, Southeast Division. Bruins - 93
points, 1st place, Northeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Lightning - St. Louis, 35 goals, 51 assists and 86 points;
Chris Dingman, 136 PIM. Bruins - Glen Murray, 29 goals; Joe Thornton, 47
assists and 68 points; Doug Doull, 122 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 18): Lightning - Power play: 16.8 percent (51
for 304), 10th in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.4 percent (211 for 250), 11th.
Bruins - Power play: 16.5 percent (43 for 261), 16th. Penalty killing: 83.8
percent (253 for 302), 19th.
GOALTENDERS: Lightning - Khabibulin (26-16-7, 3 SO, 2.28 GAA); John Grahame
(16-8-1, 1, 1.99). Bruins - Andrew Raycroft (25-16-8, 3, 1.97); Felix Potvin
(11-8-6, 4, 2.52).
SEASON SERIES: Lightning, 2-0-1.
LAST MEETING: Dec. 27; Lightning, 4-2. At Tampa, Fla., St. Louis scored two
of the Lightning's team-record three short-handed goals and assisted on the
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Lightning - 21-10-4-3 on the road; Bruins - 15-10-8-2 at