Devils-Lightning Preview

BY foxsports • April 8, 2015

Gearing up for the playoffs, the Tampa Bay Lightning are surely glad to have Steven Stamkos back on track.

Stamkos tries to build on a superb performance Thursday night against the woeful New Jersey Devils, who visit Amalie Arena looking for their first sweep in the series in six years.

Stamkos' 42 goals trail only Alex Ovechkin for the NHL lead, but he had gone seven games without one before scoring twice in Saturday's 4-0 win at Florida. He also added an assist for his eighth three-point performance this season.

"I knew if I kept working hard that things were eventually going to go in," Stamkos said. "So I just tried to shoot the puck a little more today and got some nice passes, and those ones go in."

Stamkos' drought was his longest since an eight-game stretch Nov. 30-Dec. 13, 2009.

"You can't keep him down for long," coach Jon Cooper said. "It was great to see him bust out, especially when it was a pretty tight game and there weren't a lot of scoring chances either way."

Ryan Callahan and Tyler Johnson added two points apiece as Tampa Bay (48-24-8) closed a 2-2-1 road trip. Ben Bishop finished with 34 saves to help the Lightning secure home-ice advantage for the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Tampa Bay is two points behind Montreal for first place in the Atlantic Division with two games to go.

"Home ice comes into play in a Game 7," said Callahan, who has a career high-tying 54 points. "You want to have that one at home if you get there. Tonight that was one of our main focuses."

The Lightning have gone an NHL-best 30-8-1 on their own ice while setting a franchise record for wins. However, one of those defeats came 2-1 to New Jersey on Oct. 14 as the Devils improved to 9-2-1 over their last 12 visits.

New Jersey also won 3-2 in a shootout at home Dec. 19.

The Devils (32-35-13), however, have been outscored 29-12 during a 1-6-2 stretch after falling 4-2 to the New York Rangers in Tuesday's home finale.

"Right now, we still have two games left," president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said. "I think it's getting ready for the next game, that's our focus."

Steve Bernier had a goal and an assist as New Jersey was outshot 40-21, including 33-10 in the first two periods.

"We made a good push, and again, we were within one. That's kind of been a theme this year," said Cory Schneider, who stopped 36 of 39 shots. "It's right there in the end and just can't find a way. It's tough to lose the last one at home."

Schneider has a 3.10 goals-against average during a career-worst 0-5-2 skid. He made 26 saves in the October matchup, his only appearance against the Lightning over the last three seasons.

Bishop is 11-3-2 with a 1.93 GAA and three shutouts over his last 16 starts, and he's 3-2-0 with a 1.17 GAA against the Devils.

Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman is expected to return following a three-game absence due to a lower-body injury.



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