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Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Detroit Red Wings

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Lightning-Red Wings Preview

GAME: Tampa Bay Lightning (39-17-7-5) at Detroit Red Wings (39-17-9-2).

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

With the playoffs approaching, the Detroit Red Wings leading their conference is not a big surprise. But it's shocking that the Tampa Bay Lightning are too.

The best record in the NHL will be at stake as Tampa Bay tries to extend the longest win streak in team history to nine games by winning in Detroit for the first time in 10 years.

Tampa Bay did win the Southeast Division last season, but finished the regular season with the fifth-most points in the Eastern Conference with a club-record 93. It was the first division title for the Lightning, who had finished with more than 74 points only once in their previous 10 seasons.

This season, no team in the league has more points than Tampa with 90. Detroit is its closest pursuer for the Presidents' Trophy, leading the West with 89 points.

"We are one of the best teams in the NHL," Tampa Bay's Pavel Kubina said after Friday's 3-2 overtime victory over New Jersey. "The way we're playing ... we're playing exciting hockey."

The Lightning followed that win by beating Florida 5-3 on Saturday to run their club-record winning streak to eight, and earn at least one point for a 15th straight game.

Tampa has defeated its fair share of elite teams during the win streak, including victories over Toronto, Colorado and New Jersey. But getting a victory in Detroit may be particularly important.

The Red Wings, who have finished with no fewer than 108 points the previous four seasons, have outscored the Lightning 26-7 in winning seven straight at home in this series since Jan. 12, 1994. Tampa is 1-10-0 all-time at Joe Louis Arena.

Detroit also enters this matchup on a roll, having won four straight and losing just twice in its last 16 (11-2-3).

Despite being beset by injuries, the Red Wings have built a 13-point lead over Nashville in the Central Division and a four-point lead over Colorado in the West.

First-line center Pavel Datsyuk is expected to miss another seven to 10 days with a sprained ankle. Defenseman Mathieu Dandenault is sidelined four to six weeks after breaking his left foot on Wednesday, the same day on which center Kris Draper suffered a partially torn rotator cuff that will keep him out four weeks.

"Just trying to win hockey games, and we've got a lot of guys out," goalie Manny Legace said after making 23 saves in Friday's 3-1 win over Vancouver.

Legace is 8-2 with a 1.80 goals-against average since Curtis Joseph went down with a sprained ankle on Feb. 11.

STANDINGS: Lightning - 90 points, 1st place, Southeast Division. Red Wings - 89 points, 1st place, Central Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Lightning - Martin St. Louis, 32 goals, 48 assists and 80 points; Chris Dingman, 136 PIM. Red Wings - Robert Lang, 29 goals, 49 assists and 78 points; Brendan Shanahan, 94 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through March 6): Lightning - Power play: 16.7 percent (48 for 287), 13th in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.1 percent (196 for 233), 16th. Red Wings - Power play: 21.2 percent (58 for 274), 3rd. Penalty killing: 86.5 percent (224 for 259), 2nd.

GOALTENDERS: Lightning - Nikolai Khabibulin (24-15-6, 3 SO, 2.35 GAA); John Grahame (15-7-1, 1, 1.86). Red Wings - Legace (18-7-4, 1, 1.98); Marc Lamothe (0-0-1, 0.92).

2002-03 SEASON SERIES: 1-1.

LAST MEETING: March 5, 2003; Red Wings, 3-2. At Detroit, Joseph stopped 33 shots and the Red Wings got goals from Nicklas Lidstrom, Dandenault and Shanahan.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Lightning - 20-10-3-3 on the road; Red Wings - 26-5-3-0 at home.


Associated Press
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