GAME DAY: Lightning at Bruins 3/3/11

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Lightning (37-19-7) at Bruins (37-19-7) 7:00 p.m.

Teams with identical records face off tonight to decide who will become the second seed in the East.  Boston claimed the number 2 spot last night after Tampa lost to the New Jersey Devils.

This will be the fourth and final meeting between the two division leaders this season.  The Lightning took the first game 3-1, but the Bruins have won the last two by a combined score of 12-4.  Boston has also been hot as of late, winning 7 of their last 10 games and currently riding a 6 game winning streak.

Tonight will be a huge test of the Lightning’s bounce-back ability.  They were offensively suffocated last night against the Bruins, mustering only 16 shots on goal for the entire game.  Should Tim Thomas get the start (as is expected) they will certainly need to generate more traffic to win this game.

The Bruins are stronger defensively than they are offensively, so it will likely be easier for the Lightning to stop goals than to score them tonight.  They must be prepared for a game similar to last night’s that will be low-scoring.

In tight, low-scoring games, goals come off turnovers.  The Lightning must capitalize on the Bruin’s turnovers, much like the Devils did to them last night.  Chances are you aren’t going to get too many pucks passed Thomas, so shutting down the Bruins offense will be key.

While these teams are statistically equal with points, the Bruins have a plus-53 goal differential while the Lightning have a minus-1.  The Lightning have gained a lot of points off their OT and shootout wins, and that has been a big reason they remain near the top of the standings.  The Bolts have the most OT/SO wins of any team in the league with 13.  Their 13-7 record in extra time also leads the league.

It is the last game of the Lightning’s first road trip in over a month, but it they can’t afford to let up.  They have to find a way to score even-strength goals.  Of the team’s 187 goals, 50 have come on the power play.  As we get down to the wire, they won’t be able to depend on that as much.

Tonight’s game will be broadcast nationally on the NHL Network. It should be a good one!

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