After a winless skid that lasted six gamed and dropped the Tampa Bay Lightning from the top of the Southeast Division out of the playoff picture, the Bolts are finally starting to remember how to string wins together.
Getting back to the friendly confines of the Tampa Bay Times Forum has certainly helped, where they downed the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2 on Tuesday.
On Thursday they will face another stiff test at home, this time against the Boston Bruins, who are a 9-2-2 on the season and are well rested having been off since Sunday.
The goaltenders will see Tuuka Rask face Anders Lindback, who is making his third consecutive start for the Lightning after fighting off an illness that may have facilitated the trade to acquire goalie Cedrick Desjardins. He is 2-0-0 in his last two starts.
Rask, who has been terrific for the Bruins this season after their starting netminder Tim Thomas decided not to report this year, has actually struggled against the Lightning in his career.
Via Mike Corcoran of NBC Sportstalk 1040:
Tuukka Rask in three games played vs. Tampa Bay: 1-2-0, 4.07 goals against, and .865 save percentage.
— Mike Corcoran (@MikeCorcoranNHL) February 21, 2013
The special teams battle will be an important subplot, as the Bruins boast the league's top penalty kill (94.1%) but have struggled on their power play (5th worst in the league, only 13% conversion).
The Bolts feature the league's most prolific offense (3.93 goals scored per game) in part due to the 3rd ranked power play (25.4%) and have been average on the kill (83%, good for 13th in the league).
The game will also mark Lightning winger Benoit Pouliot's first game against his former team. He scored 16 goals and 16 assists for the Bruins a season ago in 74 games played, and has succeeded in a middle-6 role for the Lightning so far this season with 13 points in 15 games. With Ryan Malone on IR, a significant opportunity presented itself for Pouliot in the top-6 and on the power play and Pouliot has seized it.
The Lightning are currently in a tie for the Southeast Division lead with the Carolina Hurricanes (17 points apiece), however the Canes have a game in hand. Carolina faces the Winnipeg Jets tonight without their star winger Jeff Skinner, who is out due to a concussion. A Tampa Bay win coupled with a Carolina loss tonight would give the Bolts back sole possession of the division lead with a match-up against Carolina on Saturday night.
Tonight's game against Boston will be on NHL Network; the puck drops at 7:30 PM EST.
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