Surging teams collide when Devils host Lightning
Wednesday, 03.02.2011 / 9:24 AM
LIGHTNING (37-18-7) at DEVILS (27-31-4)
MSG PLUS 2 RADIO --
WFAN 660 AM
Last 10 --
Lightning 5-3-2; Devils 9-1-0
Season series --
This will be the fourth and final meeting between the Eastern Conference foes. The Lightning defeated New Jersey for the first time this season Friday 2-1 in Tampa Bay. The Lightning outshot New Jersey 30-20, including 15-5 in the second period when they opened a 2-0 lead on goals by Martin St. Louis and Simon Gagne. The Devils beat the Lightning twice in the span of six days back in January with Patrik Elias
(2-2-4), Ilya Kovalchuk
(2-2-4) and Brian Rolston
(1-3-4) leading an offensive surge that saw New Jersey score 11 goals in the two games.
Big story --
Tampa Bay, 4-1-2 in its last seven games, is five points ahead of the Washington Capitals in the Southeast Division and five points behind the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia Flyers. The Lightning have won consecutive 2-1 games, relying on team defense and goaltender Dwayne Roloson. Tampa is on the verge of qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in four seasons.
New Jersey looks to continue its winning ways following the acquisition of center David Steckel
from the Washington Capitals in exchange for Jason Arnott at Monday's trade deadline. While the players would have preferred additions and not subtractions for a team that has gone 17-2-2 in the last 21 games to move from 27 points out of a playoff spot to only 11, Steckel should be able to move right in to the third-line center position. The Milwaukee, Wisc., native, who will turn 29 on March 15, had 5 goals and 11 assists in 57 games this season with the Capitals. He also leads the League with a faceoff winning percentage of 63.7. Steckel will wear jersey No. 25, Arnott's former number.
After winning just six of 20 games with the New York Islanders, goalie Dwayne Roloson is 12-6-1 since being acquired by Tampa Bay on Jan. 1 despite posting a similar goals-against average (2.67 in Tampa, 2.64 for Islanders) and a worse save percentage (.908 in Tampa, .916 for Islanders) in the Sunshine State. Roloson made 22 saves, including 10 in the third period, in a 2-1 victory against the New York Rangers on Sunday.
"For me, it's just about trying to give them a chance to win," Roloson said following the game. "I know it's cliché, but realistically it's all I'm trying to do. Today we were able to battle through and we were able to battle through and get a close game victory."
Who's hot --
Roloson has won three straight, allowing five goals in the last three starts, after allowing 19 in his previous four. In the last two games, he's stopped 41 of 43 shots. ... Devils goalie Martin Brodeur
, the expected starter against the Lightning, has won four straight while allowing just four goals over that stretch.
Injury report --
Ryan Malone (mid-body) and Mike Lundin (mid-body) are out for Tampa Bay. … Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello told the media Monday that defenseman Bryce Salvador
(cochlear concussion) will not play this season. Matthew Corrente
(shoulder) has started skating again but remains out. Left wing Zach Parise
will see his doctor Wednesday to get an update on his surgically repaired right knee.
Stat pack --
Devils left wing Ilya Kovalchuk
was held without a point in a victory against Florida on Sunday, ending his career-best point-scoring streak at 12 straight games. Brian Gionta holds the club record with 15 games, set in 2006, while Patrick Elias and Petr Sykora had 13-game streaks in 2001.
Puck drop --
In Steckel, Lamoriello was happy to acquire a player who will fit right into his lineup.
"It had to be a player that we would have considered to do one-on-one," Lamoriello said. "We looked at age, the contract, what was left on the contract, what he brings in key situations, and it had to be a fit in the quality of a person and Steckel fit all of the key categories. And we were able to get a future (draft pick) in it. Nothing has changed today with our philosophy and thought process of where we're at from yesterday or the day before."