The Tampa Bay Lightning’s playoff hopes may rest on Steven Stamkos’ ability to find the net with regularity.
Production from newcomer Ryan Callahan would also go a long way.
After the duo’s goals helped end the team’s longest slide of the season, Stamkos and Callahan will try to lead the Lightning to back-to-back wins for the first time in almost two months Saturday night against the New Jersey Devils.
Tampa Bay (35-24-7) and Montreal are tied with 77 points, but the Lightning are third in the Atlantic Division since they have a game in hand. That position, however, is rather tenuous since they’re only four points in front of Philadelphia and Detroit, who are tied for the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Stamkos and Callahan could be key to creating some breathing room.
They each had a goal in Thursday’s 5-4 win over Florida, halting Tampa Bay’s five-game losing streak. It was the first time Stamkos scored in four games since returning from a broken right shin that sidelined him for four months.
"It’s nice, just confidence-wise to get you going," Stamkos told the team’s official website. "To see one go in, it’s reassuring to see the hard work you put in paid off."
Callahan may feel the same way since he’s trying to build on his first goal since being acquired from the New York Rangers prior to the trade deadline. He had two assists through his first three games with Tampa Bay.
"He lives in front of the net," coach Jon Cooper said.
Now, the Lightning have a chance at back-to-back wins for the first time since a three-game run from Jan. 19-25, going 4-8-2 since.
Tampa Bay, though, has struggled offensively against the Devils (29-25-13) this season, losing 3-0 in New Jersey on Dec. 14 after falling 2-1 there Oct. 29.
Stamkos scored that lone goal, and he has eight with four assists over his last seven home meetings.
Callahan’s 30 points in 42 career meetings with the Devils — including playoffs — are his most against any opponent. He has 10 of those points in the past eight matchups, including three in the past two.
Ben Bishop stopped 23 of 27 shots Thursday to end a personal four-game losing streak. He is 2-2-0 with a 1.45 goals-against average against the Devils.
New Jersey is also in the thick of the East playoff race, sitting two points behind the Flyers and Red Wings for the eighth and final position.
The Devils didn’t help their cause Friday, giving up three unanswered goals in the third period to fall 5-3 at Florida.
Martin Brodeur is expected to get the start after Cory Schneider stopped 17 of 21 shots in the loss.
"Whatever I’m doing right now is just not working, and I’ve got to find a way to get out of this," said Schneider, who has lost three straight starts behind a 5.08 GAA.
Brodeur is 14-2-1 with a 2.15 GAA over his last 17 starts against the Lightning, turning away 49 of 50 shots in two meetings this season. He stopped all 33 shots to extend his own NHL record with his 124th shutout in a 3-0 victory Dec. 14.
Jaromir Jagr has nine goals with 13 assists in his last 20 games. The future Hall of Famer has three points against the Lightning this season.