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Tampa Bay Lightning at Florida Panthers Preview and Game Day Thread

The last Sunshine State rivalry of the regular season

Tampa Bay Lightning v Florida Panthers Photo by Joel Auerbach/NHLI via Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning at Florida Panthers: GAME #79

Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: Florida Live Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: ESPN+, HULU

Opponent SBNation Site: Litter Box Cats

The Tampa Bay Lightning are coming off of a sequence of two strong games, where the Bolts outscored their opponents 14-3. With just four games left before the start of playoffs, the Lightning seem like they’re heading into the postseason in good shape and have finally solved their issues. Tonight’s game will be another challenge for the Lightning’s playoff form as they’re facing the Florida Panthers — a team currently running with a 13-game winning streak.

Brayden Point, who unexpectedly missed the game against the Leafs, returned to the lineup yesterday, but the Lightning lost Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Reportedly, he’s out with lower body injury after receiving a shot to his knee on Thursday. No information if he will be available tonight, but most likely the Lightning will be forced to play their third game in a row with eleven forwards and seven defensemen. Andrei Vasilevskiy will return to the net after Brian Elliott played yesterday against the Preds.

Jon Cooper didn’t break up the top line of Palat-Stamkos-Kucherov after Point’s return and they played another dominant game against Nashville. All three players are on quite impressive point streaks: Palat have posted six points over his last four games, Kucherov has 11 points in his five latest games and scored a goal in each, Stamkos has 13 points in those five games, matching his career-high for most points over a five-game span.

Meanwhile, the Panthers are continuing their record-breaking season. They have already clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference and currently have 120 points in 78 games, which is 17 points more than their previous best record in a regular season. As it was already mentioned, the Panthers are on the 13-game winning streak — the longest in their history. They’re also just the 10th team in the NHL history with a 13-game winning streak. The Panthers are also undoubtedly the most dangerous offensive team of the season: they scored five goals (including two games with nine goals and one of them against the Bolts) or more in 32 games — more than a third of their games of this season. Jonathan Huberdeau is leading the team with 114 points in 78 games, trailing only Connor McDavid for the most points in the league.

The Panthers have beaten the Bolts in two out of three total games this season, including a very disheartening 9-3 victory in the previous match-up. The Lightning and the Panthers have developed a quite spicy rivalry over the years, especially over the previous season. They could face each other against in the postseason, as soon as in the second round.

Tampa Bay Lightning Potential Lines

Forwards

Ondrej Palat - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Brandon Hagel

Brayden Point - Nick Paul - Ross Colton -

Patrick Maroon - Corey Perry

Defense

Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta

Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak

Mikhail Sergachev - Zach Bogosian

Cal Foote

Goaltender

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Brian Elliott

Florida Panthers Lines

Forwards

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Anthony Duclair

Mason Marchment - Sam Bennett - Claude Giroux

Maxim Mamin - Anton Lundell - Sam Reinhart

Ryan Lomberg - Eetu Luostarinen - Noel Acciari

Defensemen

Ben Chiarot - MacKenzie Weegar

Gustav Forsling - Brandon Montour

Lucas Carlsson - Radko Gudas

Goaltenders

Sergei Bobrovsky

Spencer Knight