Lightning-Bruins Preview

The Associated Press

Ten months ago, the Boston Bruins prevented the Tampa Bay Lightning from reaching the Stanley Cup finals.

Now Boston has a chance to all but extinguish the Lightning's slim hopes of getting back to the playoffs.

The Bruins look to pad their lead in the Northeast Division by continuing their home dominance of Tampa Bay in the conclusion of this season series Tuesday night.

The Bruins (44-28-3) went on to win the Stanley Cup after ousting the Lightning (35-33-7) with a 1-0 home victory in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Boston should get the opportunity to defend that title, leading the Northeast by three points over Ottawa with two games in hand on the Senators.

Tampa Bay is unlikely to join the Bruins in the postseason. The East's 11th-place club trails Washington and Buffalo by seven points, with the Capitals and Sabres set to break their eighth-place tie with a matchup Tuesday.

The Lightning, however, are showing they're not ready to give up, winning their third straight with a 5-3 victory at playoff-bound Philadelphia on Monday.

"We're kind of hanging on right now," said center Steven Stamkos, who set a team record with his NHL-leading 53rd goal Monday. "There's a lot of character in this room, and on this team, and it's showing. When you play well, and take advantage of your opportunities, you end up getting some timely goals, and that's what you're seeing. There's a lot of pride in this room.

"In this position, you always have to just keep playing. You never know what can happen, and we still have a chance. Until we don't have one, we have to play like we do, and it's working out for now."

Things don't tend to work out for the Lightning when visiting Boston.

The Bruins are 29-5-0 with six ties all-time at home against Tampa Bay, including a 3-1 record in last season's East finals. They won 4-1 in the most recent meeting there Oct. 8, but dropped the next two in Tampa - including a 6-1 defeat March 13.

They've regained some momentum by winning four of five overall behind stunning production from 39-year-old Brian Rolston and linemates Chris Kelly and Benoit Pouliot.

The trio had two points each to power Sunday's 3-2 victory over Anaheim, which capped a 2-1-0 California trip. Kelly has three goals and four assists in the past five games, while Pouliot has four and seven, respectively, over nine contests.

It's the play of Rolston, however, that might be the most surprising. The veteran has three goals and eight assists during a six-game scoring streak, giving him 12 points in 15 games with the Bruins. He had just nine in 49 contests with the New York Islanders before being dealt to Boston last month.

"He's always been a good skater," coach Claude Julien said. "He doesn't look his age. He certainly doesn't play his age. He has good speed and a great shot."

That's been on display against the Lightning throughout his 17-season career with 45 points in 59 games, although he's managed just one in the past six.

Tampa Bay will try to build on its own momentum by winning at TD Garden in the regular season for the first time since March 25, 2010.

Stamkos has 10 goals and 10 assists in 22 meetings with the Bruins, getting seven points in 11 visits to Boston. He's a minus-8 there, though, and has been held without a point seven times - the Lightning are 1-6-0 when that happens.

Martin St. Louis has four points in his last two games overall, and he scored on former University of Vermont teammate Tim Thomas in the latest road meeting with the Bruins.

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