Panthers-Lightning Preview

The Tampa Bay Lightning are ultimately looking to make their

first postseason appearance since 2007, but have dropped two

straight to teams loaded with playoff experience.

The Southeast-leading Lightning will try to avoid extending that

streak Saturday night when they welcome the last-place Florida

Panthers.

Despite falling 4-3 in a shootout to Philadelphia on Tuesday and

6-2 to Detroit two nights later, Tampa Bay (34-18-6) is still 8-3-1

since Jan. 18 and has won five of nine on a 12-game homestand that

matches the longest in NHL history. The Lightning own a four-point

lead over Washington in the division.

Tampa Bay hasn’t won the Southeast since 2003-04, and captain

Vincent Lecavalier said the team cannot dwell on the recent

losses.

“We’ve got to learn from this,” he said. “Our standards have to

be even higher.”

The Lightning, who are 1-1-1 against Florida this season,

haven’t lost three in a row since Nov. 11-14.

Steven Stamkos had an assist against the Red Wings, giving him

nine to go along with nine goals since Jan. 14. He continues to

lead with league with 40 goals and 75 points – one more than

Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin.

However, Stamkos has just two assists in three games against the

Panthers this season. He’s notched four goals and four assists in

six career matchups at home versus Florida, helping Tampa Bay to a

3-0-2 record when he has at least one point.

Tampa Bay may have veteran defenseman Eric Brewer in the lineup

after acquiring the former St. Louis captain in a trade Friday.

Brewer has eight goals and six assists in 54 games this season, and

will be expected to help a defense that is 25th in the league with

182 goals allowed.

If Tampa Bay is to get back in the win column, then facing

Florida (24-26-7) may make that task somewhat easier.

Florida, which is 12th in the East, fell for the fourth time in

five games with a 4-3 loss to the Red Wings on Friday. After

Detroit broke a 3-3 tie with 7:32 remaining, Stephen Weiss nearly

evened the score with 27.8 seconds to play, but was denied by Joey

MacDonald.

Weiss had a goal and an assist, ending a three-game stretch

without a point for the Panthers’ top scorer.

“You’ve got to give guys credit for coming back and giving a

good effort, but at the same time it’s frustrating that we’re not

getting the results and the wins and more points. Tough one,”

defenseman Bryan Allen said.

After wrapping up a 1-3-1 homestand, the Panthers hope for

better results as they begin a four-game swing. Florida is 12-15-1

away from home, but has picked up at least one point in five of its

last nine road contests.

Florida routed Tampa Bay 6-0 on Oct. 16, however the last two

meetings have gone to shootouts, including a 4-3 victory on Nov. 27

at the St. Pete Times Forum.