GAME: Tampa Bay Lightning (21-15-6-1) at Florida Panthers (14-19-10-2).
TIME: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. EST.
John Grahame's recent play would seem to have earned him the right to play
Grahame figures to be back in goal Saturday when the Tampa Bay Lightning try
to match their season high with a sixth-straight win as they visit the Florida
Despite allowing one goal in each game during four consecutive starts -- all
wins -- Grahame was the backup Thursday, as the Lightning held on for a 5-4
victory over visiting Carolina.
Nikolai Khabibulin struggled for the second consecutive start -- his first
since Jan. 6 -- allowing four goals on 24 shots.
"He was OK," Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said of Khabibulin. "A game
like this, we knew it was going to be a struggle. We knew it was going to be an
interesting game. You have to give them credit. They fought, but they came up
Khabibulin may still be considered Tampa Bay's No. 1 goalie, but Grahame is
having by far the better season. Grahame is 9-5-1 with a 1.58 goals-against
average while Khabibulin is one game over .500 (12-11-5) with a 2.23 GAA.
Martin St. Louis recorded his second career hat trick during Tampa Bay's
five-goal first period and Brad Richards had a goal and two assists, helping
the Lightning extend their lead in the Southeast Division.
St. Louis and Richards have been the main offensive contributors during the
win streak, combining for eight goals and seven assists.
After opening a four-game trip with a win at Philadelphia, the Panthers went
0-2-1 in the final three games, including a 4-2 loss to Edmonton on Tuesday.
Florida was outshot 16-1 in the first period and 28-16 overall.
"I mean, we're playing for a playoff spot and that should be motivation
enough to come out and play hard," Panthers coach Rick Dudley said. "Tonight,
we didn't do it, starting with myself, all the way down to the last guy in this
locker room. We didn't deserve any points in this one."
For the Panthers to remain in playoff contention, more production from
captain Olli Jokinen and forward Viktor Kozlov -- two of the team's top
offensive players -- is needed. The tandem has combined for no goals and two
assists in the last six games.
"If we had Koz and Olli going at the same level they were going at last
year, then we are comfortably in the playoffs now," Dudley said.