Florida (18-20-8) at Tampa Bay (18-17-10)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Tampa, FL
Temp: 77° F
  • Game info: 7:30 pm EST Thu Jan 14, 2010
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Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis(notes) has two 11-game point streaks this season. His current one has to be the more enjoyable of the two.

St. Louis looks to continue providing offense Thursday night when the Lightning take on the Florida Panthers in the opener of a home-and-home series.

St. Louis, who leads Tampa Bay with 40 assists and 52 points, recorded a point in each of the season’s first 11 games, totaling three goals and 12 assists. However, the Lightning (18-17-10) went only 4-3-4 during that stretch.

During his latest run - which is two shy of matching his career high set Feb. 5-March 3, 2004 - he has six goals and 11 assists, helping the Lightning go 7-3-1. He notched his 250th career goal and two assists in a 7-4 win over Washington on Tuesday. The goal put Tampa Bay ahead to stay after blowing a 4-1 advantage.

It was the highest offensive output of the season for the Lightning, who scored four power-play goals for the first time since a 5-3 victory over the New York Rangers on Dec. 29, 2002.

Coming off a big offensive performance over the Southeast Division leaders, Tampa Bay will get more chances to improve its 5-3-1 record against its division rivals. The Lightning’s next three games are all against Southeast Division foes.

Tampa Bay beat the Panthers 3-2 at home in October. The teams will face each other again on Saturday at BankAtlantic Center, before the Lightning visit Carolina next Monday.

Tampa Bay trails Washington by 16 points for the Southeast lead, but is tied for second with Atlanta with a two-point lead over Florida (18-20-8).

“Every game is important for us now,” Steven Stamkos(notes), who had two goals and an assist Tuesday to surpass the 46 points he recorded as a rookie in 2008-09, told the Panthers’ official Web site. “The Eastern Conference is so tight that we can’t afford to lose a lot of games, especially against this team, it’s a big confidence booster.”

St. Louis will also be looking to extend his four-game point streak against the Panthers. He had a goal and an assist in the victory against them in October, giving him three goals and seven assists in his last four games in this series.

The Panthers are looking to bounce back after they blew a three-goal lead against Washington on Wednesday, eventually falling 5-4 in a shootout. The Panthers were outshot 14-6 in the third period and Tomas Vokoun(notes) gave up the game-winner in the sixth round of the tiebreaker.

Florida has been either leading or tied after the first period in four of its last five losses.

“We have to learn how to win games,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “We do a lot of things right on a lot of nights, but this is a game that is about wins and losses and we aren’t good at closing teams out or doing what it takes to finish teams off.”

The Panthers were 2-1-0 at Tampa Bay last season.

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Thursday, Jan 14