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Tampa Bay versus Calgary becomes a top-of-the-NHL confrontation

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Derek Leung

After a couple of days off, the Lightning are due to be back at the grindstone on Thursday at Amalie Arena for the last game of their four game homestand. Things of late have had a positive vibe (winning will do that for you) that contrasts the very negative note the western Canada road trip ended on almost two weeks ago. Injuries remain a problem for the club, with Alex Killorn back on the shelf, Brett Connolly out, Victor Hedman off for a while still and other bumps and bruises that aren't highlighted so much in team reports.

Despite all the injury woes, the Lightning can compete, and they have been competing. The Eastern Conference standings show it, with the Bolts sharing the conference lead with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Monreal Canadiens.  The Pens have the lead by way of having a game in-hand on the Lightning, while the Lightning are in front of the Habs with thanks to their own game in-hand on Montreal. That little fact puts Tampa Bay on top of the Atlantic Division for the moment.

Thursday night takes on a very interesting flavor with thanks to where the Calgary Flames are in the standings: An 8-4-2 record puts them in a tie with Vancouver for the 2nd most points in the NHL with 18 after 14 games. The Anaheim Ducks lead the league with 20 points at current.  Calgary bested the Montreal Canadiens earlier in the week and topped the Washington Capitals in overtime last night at Verizon Center.

It's still early in the NHL season and it's a cross-conference game, but with the Flames and Lightning both riding 3 game winning streaks while poised at the top of the standings, the game amounts to a bigger matchup-up than you can expect the hockey media to give it credit for.