Less than 24 hours ago, both clubs secured 5-4 victories on Saturday night, with the Lightning topping the Pittsburgh Penguins on home ice in Tampa and the Panthers stunning the Capitals in overtime in Washington, D.C. for their second straight win and sixth in the last eight games.
During Florida's red-hot 6-2-0 stretch, all six wins have come against current playoff teams.
"We've just got a bit of our swagger back," said Panthers goaltender Roberto Luongo, who made 26 saves in the win. "We believe in ourselves, and the way we're playing we've been finding different ways to win. We're getting a little bit of that momentum going like we did last year. We've got to keep plugging away night after night here."
A historical night in the District, Luongo appeared in the 1,029th NHL game of his Hall of Fame career, which moved him into a tie with Patrick Roy for the second-most games played ever by a goaltender in NHL history. Additionally, the 39-year-old also notched his 483rd victory, which is just one behind former Panthers netminder Ed Belfour for third place on the NHL's all-time list.
Luongo, however, is expected to be on Florida's bench against the Lightning, as he will likely rest up before continuing his climb up the NHL's all-time rankings. In his place, backup James Reimer should be in between the pipes, looking to continuing building upon a 5-2-2 stretch.
"We're just playing to win games, trying to get back in the playoff race," said Luongo, who owns a 4-1-0 record over his last five starts. "That's my goal, personally. I want to take part in the playoffs again. [Milestones] are nice when they come and go, but it's not something I really keep tabs on that much."
Mike Hoffman scored the game-winner for the Panthers in D.C., taking a smooth pass from Keith Yandle and beating Braden Holtby on the power play at 1:31 of overtime. "Yandle made a great pass through the seam, and it was an open net," Hoffman said of the scoring sequence.
The goal was Hoffman's team-leading 25th goal of the season and 11th on the power play.
"Troch [Vincent Trocheck] just told me what happened," said Yandle, who registered his 27th power-play point of the season on the play, which ranks fourth in the NHL and first among all defensemen. "I don't really know how [the puck] got to my stick. I was going down and it came right on my stick. Then I saw Hoff open, and he made a great shot."
The Lightning, meanwhile, snapped out of a two-game losing streak against Pittsburgh thanks to a pair of third-period goals from Tyler Johnson and J.T. Miller. After Johnson put Tampa up 4-3 just 4:54 into the final frame, Miller went on to make it 5-3 with the would-be winner at 14:03.
At 40-11-4, the Lightning's 84 points this season are the most in the NHL and 10 more than the next-best team, the Calgary Flames. Tampa previously defeated the Panthers 2-1 in a shootout on Oct. 6 and 7-3 on Nov. 21 at Amalie Arena, and 5-4 in overtime on Dec. 1 at BB&T Center.
Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov leads the NHL in points (81) and power-play points (30).
"We get in trouble when we look too big picture," Panthers coach Bob Boughner said of Florida's road ahead. "We know the position we're in. Obviously we're scoreboard watching every night. We're just trying to take it one game at a time. I know it's a bit of a cliché, but the minute we start talking about how many games we have, how many wins we need, that's when we get in trouble."
The Panthers own a 7-1-3 record in the second game of back-to-backs this season.
-- Aleksander Barkov leads the Panthers in scoring with 53 points, including four goals and 10 assists over his last 14 games. In addition to his offensive numbers, the 23-year-old captain also ranks third in the NHL in takeaways (72), while his 22:53 of average ice time per game paces all forwards.
-- Jonathan Huberdeau ranks second on the Panthers with 51 points, while also leading the team in assists (38). In 26 career games against Tampa, the 25-year-old winger has posted nine goals and 17 assists.
-- Frank Vatrano leads the Panthers in goals (7), points (12) and shots on goal (39) over the last 13 games. The 24-year-old winger also leads team with 17 even-strength goals, while having already set new career-highs in both goals (18) and points (29).
-- Since being acquired in a multi-player trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins last week, forwards Derick Brassard (one goal, two assists) and Riley Sheahan (two assists) have combined for five points through their first four games with the Panthers.
-- Entering tonight with the third-ranked power play in the NHL, the Panthers have registered at least one goal with the extra attacker in 33 of their last 44 games. Since Nov. 1, they have gone 44-for-145 (30.3 percent) with the man advantage, which ranks first in the NHL in that span.
-- The Panthers have gone 33-for-35 on the penalty kill over the last 17 games, with that 94.4 percent success rate ranking second in the NHL in that span.
GEICO GOALIE MATCHUP OF THE GAME (UNCONFIRMED)
James Reimer (10-9-5, 3.06 GAA, .901 SV%) vs. Louis Domingue (17-4-0, 2.95 GAA, .906 SV%)
With Luongo getting the nod in net on Saturday, Reimer is expected to start for the Panthers against Tampa. The 30-year-old backup has gone 5-2-2 over his last nine decisions, owning a glowing .923 save percentage in that span. In his career against the Lightning, he's gone 5-7-3 with a 3.17 goals-against average and a .903 save percentage.
Like the Panthers, the Lightning are also expected to roll with their backup, as Domingue is likely to start after all-star Andrei Vasilevskiy played on Saturday. The beneficiary of playing behind the NHL's top-ranked offense, the 26-year-old has won each of his last nine starts despite owning a sub-.900 save percentage in four of those outings. In his career against Florida, he owns a 3-1-0 record with a 2.73 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage.
PROJECTED LINEUP (NO MORNING SKATE)
Evgenii Dadonov - Aleksander Barkov - Derick Brassard
Jonathan Huberdeau - Vincent Trocheck - Frank Vatrano
Mike Hoffman - Riley Sheahan - Colton Sceviour
Troy Brouwer - Henrik Borgstrom - Denis Malgin
Keith Yandle - Aaron Ekblad
Mike Matheson - Mark Pysyk
Ian McCoshen - Josh Brown
Scratches: Micheal Haley, Bogdan Kiselevich, MacKenzie Weegar
Injured Reserve: Derek MacKenzie (shoulder), Jayce Hawryluk (lower body)
- Feb. 8: D Bogdan Kiselevich was recalled from Springfield (AHL)
- Feb. 1: F Jamie McGinn was loaned to Springfield (AHL)
- 50/50 Raffle (buy digital tickets here)
- Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center Takeover Night
- Marlins Night
BITE OF BB&T CENTER
Buffalo or Jamaican Jerk Wings for $12 at the "Chick it Out" stand outside section 105
HOW TO WATCH
When: Sunday, Feb. 10, 6:00 p.m.
Where: BB&T Center - Sunrise, FL
TV: Fox Sports Florida (Alternate Channels Below)
Dish: 446 Dish HD: 9516
Dish Hopper: 412-34
DTV HD: 654-1
AT&T HD: 1721
Florida Panthers Radio Network: 560 WQAM (Dade/Broward); 640 WMEN (Palm Beach); 100.3 WCTH (Florida Keys); 1370 WAXE (Treasure Coast)