Flames-Lightning Preview

The Associated Press

Getting outplayed on both ends of the ice, the Tampa Bay Lightning find themselves in the midst of another ugly slump.

Hoping to avoid an eighth loss in nine games, the Lightning host a Calgary Flames team looking to pick up its play away from home during a road-heavy stretch of schedule Thursday night.

Tampa Bay (12-16-2), which lost five straight after winning its season opener and dropped four of five Nov. 12-22, has gone 1-7-0 in its last eight after a 5-4 defeat to New Jersey on Monday. Two goals and an assist from Steven Stamkos were among the few bright spots for the Lightning, who have been outscored 32-16 in the previous eight games.

"It's tough mentally on the players and I'm not going to point any fingers here," coach Guy Boucher told the team's official website. "It's a team sport and there are moments in a franchise, moments in a season, in segments of a season that you don't understand why. It's just happening this way and you have to manage it mentally. It matters how your react to it and react the right way, or you sink lower."

Calgary (14-14-2) hasn't been sinking, winning a season-best three straight last week at home, but the Flames failed to carry that momentum to the road and fell 2-1 to Nashville on Tuesday.

That game opened a stretch in which the Flames play 11 of 13 away from the Saddledome. Calgary, which has dropped its last two road games and five of seven, was outshot 18-6 in the first period by the Predators.

"We can't play 40 minutes on the road. You never wanna play 40 minutes," coach Brent Sutter said. "We got a lot of road games here and we gotta play very sound hockey right from the get go. We have to play our game right from the start and find ways to get points."

Calgary surrendered 45 shots Tuesday - its highest total in almost two years - and only Miikka Kiprusoff's 43-save performance gave the Flames a chance to win.

While Kiprusoff has been mostly solid this season, the Lightning's goaltending situation leaves much to be desired. Dwayne Roloson was pulled less than a minute into the second period Monday, having stopped nine of 12 shots.

"I feel bad because I know he cares so much and he prepared so hard for this game," Boucher said. "He's going to keep battling and we're going to keep helping him because he wants to help himself."

Mathieu Garon came on and allowed two goals on 10 shots, giving him a 1-5-0 mark and a 3.17 GAA in his last six games. Garon, though, has experienced plenty of success in 14 meetings with the Flames, going 9-4-1 with a 2.01 GAA.

Roloson, who spent his first two seasons with Calgary, has gone 2-7-1 with a 3.29 GAA in his last 10 matchups against his former team.

Kiprusoff is 2-0-2 with a 3.79 GAA versus Tampa Bay while with Calgary.

Flames left wing Rene Bourque, who had a goal and two assists in the teams' lone meeting last season, a 4-2 Calgary win Dec. 7, was held out for the first time this season Tuesday with flu-like symptoms. His status for Thursday is uncertain.

The Lightning continue to play without six-time All-Star Martin St. Louis, sidelined since getting hit near the left eye by a shot in practice last Thursday.

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