After dismal finishes the past two seasons, the Tampa Bay Lightning have showed promise in 2009-10, although they are struggling away from home once again.
The Lightning have had plenty of success on the road against the inconsistent Philadelphia Flyers and will try to continue it Monday night in the opener of a four-game trip.
Tampa Bay finished last in the Southeast Division for the second straight season in 2008-09 and had one of the league’s worst road records at 12-22-7. The Lightning were an NHL-worst 11-24-6 away from home the previous season.
Following a slow start to 2009-10, Tampa Bay (4-3-4) went 4-0-2 on its just-completed homestand. The Lightning concluded the stretch with a 2-1 shootout loss to New Jersey on Saturday.
Steven Stamkos(notes) tied it in the third period by scoring in his fifth straight game, recording his team-leading 10th goal. Martin St. Louis(notes) assisted for his 600th career point and extended his season-opening point streak to 11 games.
Stamkos, however, was one of four shooters that failed to score in the shootout. Tampa Bay has not scored in 14 attempts this season and has suffered four shootout defeats.
One of those losses came in the season’s second game at Carolina and represented their best chance for a victory away from home.
Tampa Bay has been outscored 18-6 in going 0-3-1 on the road. The Lightning had a franchise-worst 0-7-0 start away from home in 2007-08.
“Shootout, what do you do?” Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said. “I don’t know.”
After stopping 37 shots to help his team earn a point Saturday, Antero Niittymaki(notes) could face his former team for the first time. Tocchet could also turn to Mike Smith(notes), who started all four matchups last season against Philadelphia.
Smith helped Tampa Bay go 2-1-1 versus the Flyers by allowing one goal apiece in the two victories, but he gave up 10 in the two defeats. He is 3-2-1 with a 2.88 goals-against average all-time against Philadelphia.
If Smith starts Monday, he will face a Flyers team that has been up and down since a season-opening three-game win streak.
Philadelphia (6-4-1) followed that early run with three straight losses but then defeated Boston and Florida at home. The Flyers fell to San Jose and Washington in their next two games before beating the Hurricanes 6-1 on Saturday.
With Simon Gagne(notes) and Danny Briere(notes) out with groin injuries, Braydon Coburn(notes) recorded his first two-goal game in five years. Scott Hartnell(notes) and Matt Carle(notes) each added a goal and two assists.
Gagne is on injured reserve, while Briere remains day to day and is doubtful for Monday.
“It shows what kind of depth we have as a team,” Carle said. “With the way we’ve played the last two home games, it was good to get a win like that. Hopefully, it’ll start something here for us.”
The teams have split their last 10 meetings, but Tampa Bay has won nine of the last 11 in Philadelphia.