Lightning-Predators Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated October 26, 2011
Mathieu Garon's play in goal has helped the Tampa Bay Lightning get on track following a dreadful start to 2011-12. Although he has given his team new life, he has not enjoyed any luck against the Nashville Predators over the last few seasons. Garon could be in net Thursday night, looking to lead the Lightning to a fourth straight win and end a personal eight-game losing streak to the Predators. After leading Tampa Bay (4-3-2) to the Eastern Conference finals in May, Dwayne Roloson was expected to be the team's regular goaltender this season. He has gotten off to a rocky start, however, going 1-2-1 with a 5.11 goals-against average. Coach Guy Boucher has gone with Garon each of the last three games, and he has rewarded him with three wins in a row. Garon came out a bit flat against Buffalo on Tuesday, surrendering a pair of goals on the first three shots he faced before stopping 35 of the final 36 in a 4-3 victory. Vincent Lecavalier, Nate Thompson, Steven Stamkos and Ryan Malone all scored for Tampa Bay, which lost five of its first six games. "It wasn't a pretty game for us, but we found a way to win," Malone said. Garon, in his first season with the Lightning, improved to 3-0-1 with a 1.29 GAA in his last five games and has appeared to have supplanted Roloson as the team's top goalie. Garon is plenty familiar with Nashville having played the last two seasons in the Central Division with Columbus, but that hasn't led to any success. He is 0-6-2 with a 3.67 GAA in eight games since 2007-08 versus the Predators, the only team he has made at least two starts against and not beaten. He has not defeated Nashville since March 25, 2006, while playing for Los Angeles. Roloson has also had his share of problems against the Predators, going 1-6-1 with a 3.48 GAA since 2005-06. Whoever gets the nod in goal, however, will be facing a Predators team that is having trouble scoring. Nashville (3-4-1) has nine goals in its last six games, scoring two or fewer in each, and has been outshot in all eight contests. In Tuesday's 3-1 loss to San Jose, the Predators were outshot 36-20. "They just wanted to start putting pucks to the net," coach Barry Trotz said of the Sharks. "We don't. That's one of the things we have to work on a little bit." Nashville's power-play unit managed to show some signs of life Tuesday, as rookie Craig Smith scored in the third period. The Predators have converted 2 of 22 power-play chances in their last six games. The Lightning have killed all eight penalties during their winning streak and have surrendered power-play goals in only two of their nine games. Nashville's offensive woes have made things tough on goalie Pekka Rinne, who has started each game. Rinne has yielded two goals or fewer in each of his last five contests but is 1-3-1. In his lone start against the Lightning on Dec. 15, 2009, he made 30 saves in a 7-4 victory. The Predators won 4-3 in Tampa last season for their second straight victory in the series after winning once in the previous eight matchups.
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