The Tampa Bay Lightning look to continue their surge toward playoff position in the Eastern Conference when they host the equally hot Calgary Flames on Thursday night. The Lightning are 5-0-2 in their last seven contests after a 4-1 victory over Edmonton on Tuesday and ironed out some issues in the defensive end, allowing 11 goals during their point streak while getting key offensive players in gear.
Tampa Bay’s leading scorer Nikita Kucherov broke out with four points in Tuesday’s victory - reunited for the second straight game with “triplets” linemates Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson - and steady defenseman Anton Stralman told reporters everybody is on the same page, feeding off each other. “Confidence is contagious,” Stralman said after notching his 200th career point against Edmonton. The Flames, who lost to the Lightning 6-3 on Dec. 14, are 6-2-1 in their last nine games and hold onto the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference after blowing a three-goal lead before rallying for a 6-5 overtime victory Tuesday at Nashville. “We stuck with it, and I think that just shows the character that we have in this room,” Calgary power forward Micheal Ferland, who scored twice, told the Calgary Sun.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, Sportsnet West (Calgary), FSN Sun (Tampa Bay)
ABOUT THE FLAMES (30-26-4): Forward Johnny Gaudreau posted a career-high four assists Tuesday, but is still looking for his first goal in eight contests since participating in All-Star Game. Gaudreau is tied with 19-year-old rookie Matthew Tkachuk (goal, four assists in last three games) for second on the team with 39 points – two behind center Mikael Backlund, who registered a pair of goals Tuesday. Captain Mark Giordano scored the game-winner against Nashville and the defenseman boasts a goal in three consecutive contests with a plus-5 rating in that span.
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (27-24-8): Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman must decide whether to deal impending free agent Ben Bishop before Wednesday’s trade deadline, but the goalie is on a major run with five straight wins. “He’s just in command of his game,” coach Jon Cooper told reporters of Bishop, who has a .953 save percentage during the streak. “He looks intimidating when he’s in there.” Kucherov had a goal and three assists Tuesday, Johnson added a pair of helpers and the Lightning got two goals from Palat, who told reporters, “We have great chemistry together.”
1. Calgary D Michael Stone had an assist in 17:09 of ice time Tuesday in his first game since being acquired from Arizona on Monday.
2. Tampa Bay F Gabriel Dumont is expected to play his 18th NHL game in 2016-17 after playing the same amount in the previous five seasons combined.
3. The Flames stood 13th in the league on the power play (19.8) through Tuesday after going scoreless on 18 opportunities over the last five games.
PREDICTION: Flames 4, Lightning 3