Lightning-Sharks Preview


After playing well defensively over a recent three-week stretch, the Tampa Bay Lightning have had a difficult time continuing that since the start of a road swing.

They're hoping that changes against a San Jose Sharks team that has struggled offensively.

Hoping to avoid their first three-game skid, the Lightning look to tighten up defensively Thursday night and record their first victory in San Jose since 2003.

Tampa Bay (14-7-0) had allowed 1.8 goals per game - well below its 2.6 season average - over a 10-game span before giving up 11 in consecutive losses to open this four-game West Coast swing.

Ben Bishop, the NHL's co-leader with 13 wins, is likely to get a chance to rebound from a rough start to the trip. He was pulled in the second period after surrendering three goals on 14 shots in Saturday's 6-3 loss at Phoenix and allowed five on 31 shots in Tuesday's 5-2 loss at Los Angeles.

''This hasn't happened in back-to-back games for us this year,'' coach Jon Cooper said. ''This was the first time we've been on the wrong end of the score twice in a row. Coming out west is a tough trip."

While the Sharks (13-3-5) are coming off their own 3-1-1 road trip, they haven't exactly been lighting things up offensively. Joe Pavelski accounted for the lone tally as San Jose was limited to 24 shots in a 5-1 loss at Chicago on Sunday.

''We lacked a lot of energy that was needed to play in this game,'' coach Todd McLellan said. ''When you don't have energy, you better be sharp mentally and we may have been poorer in that area.

After averaging 4.9 goals during their 7-0-1 start, the Sharks have scored 2.5 per game while going 6-3-4 in their last 13. Since averaging 5.2 goals over five straight home wins, they've totaled eight during an 0-1-2 stretch in San Jose.

Joe Thornton, tied with Pavelski for the team lead with 22 points, could provide a spark considering he has three goals and eight assists in a seven-game point streak versus Tampa Bay.

Fellow center Logan Couture has four goals in three career meetings, while Patrick Marleau has three and five assists in his last five games against the Lightning.

San Jose's Antti Niemi will have to regroup following one of his worst performances, allowing a season-high five goals on 27 shots in Sunday's loss. He's given up eight goals while dropping his last two home starts and surrendered six on 25 shots in a 6-5 overtime loss in his most recent meeting with the Lightning on Feb. 16, 2012.

Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis each scored a pair in that contest, though Stamkos - the team's leading scorer with 14 goals - is out indefinitely after suffering a broken leg Nov. 11 in Boston.

St. Louis had an assist in his 1,000th NHL game Tuesday and has four goals in his last three against the Sharks.

Valtteri Filppula's power-play tally Tuesday snapped a streak of nine straight road games without a goal. Only two of his nine goals have come on the road.

The Lightning have been outscored 22-6 during a four-game losing streak in San Jose since their last win there March 24, 2003.