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NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Monday, December 23rd (All times Eastern)
Tampa Bay Lightning (22-11-3) at Florida Panthers (14-18-5), 7:30 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Tampa Bay Lightning hope to continue playing well without star centerman Steven Stamkos, as the Bolts shoot for a season-best fifth consecutive win when they visit the Florida Panthers in Monday's Atlantic Division battle at BB&T Center.
The Lightning tied a season-high winning streak by picking up a fourth straight victory in Saturday's home triumph over Carolina. Tampa Bay previously won four in a row from Nov. 1-9, but that streak ended on Nov. 11 at Boston in the same game that saw Stamkos suffer a broken right leg.
Not counting the 3-0 loss in Boston on Nov. 11, the Lightning have managed to go 10-6-3 with Stamkos out of the lineup, and with 47 points, the club is tied for second in the Atlantic with Montreal.
Stamkos, a two-time winner of the Maurice Richard Trophy as the league's top goal-scorer, has begun skating lightly, but is still sidelined indefinitely. He is still second on Tampa Bay with 14 goals this season despite sitting out the last 19 games.
The Lightning rallied for an overtime win Saturday against the visiting Hurricanes. Carolina carried a 2-1 lead into the third period, but Martin St. Louis evened the game with a power-play goal with 12:04 left in regulation and Radko Gudas scored 2:16 into overtime to lift Tampa to the 3-2 decision.
Gudas potted his second goal of the year after skating into the Carolina end and unleashing a rising shot that beat Justin Peters high to the glove side from the right circle. Right before the goal, Gudas muscled Carolina's Jeff Skinner into the boards, but no penalty was called. Nate Thompson then delivered the outlet pass that had Gudas break into the offensive zone unchallenged.
Victor Hedman scored in the first period for Tampa Bay, which improved to 6-1-0 against Carolina since the beginning of the 2012-13 season.
"We just had to keep shooting pucks. We knew sooner than later it was going to go in," Hedman said.
Ben Bishop made 25 saves for the Lightning and improved to 19-5-2 on the season.
Bishop expects to get the call tonight and is 2-0 with a 1.15 goals against average in two career games against the Panthers. He made 19 saves when the Lightning torched Florida 7-2 in Tampa on Oct. 10, while Anders Lindback recorded the victory in a 4-3 road win versus the Panthers on Oct. 27.
With a 2-0 start against the Panthers in this season's series, Tampa has won nine of the last 11 encounters overall. Florida has lost five straight on the road in this series.
Florida had won a season-high five straight games before getting dealt a 5-2 setback Friday night in Winnipeg. Evander Kane, Jacob Trouba and Michael Frolik each had a goal and an assist to help the Jets cool off the Panthers, who lost the finale of a four-game road trip.
The Panthers received goals from Shawn Matthias and Nick Bjugstad in the loss, while Jacob Markstrom finished with 27 saves.
With Tim Thomas still out with a lower-body injury, Scott Clemmensen expects to get the start in net for the Panthers on Monday. Clemmensen is 5-3-1 with a 3.17 GAA in 11 career games (9 starts) against Tampa Bay.
12/23 11:04:11 ET
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