Lightning-Sharks Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 20, 2011
The Tampa Bay Lightning and San Jose Sharks both seem to have turned a corner following disappointing losing stretches. With each team riding a bit of momentum, the Lightning visit the Sharks on Wednesday night. Since losing seven of eight from Nov. 28-Dec. 12, Tampa Bay (14-16-2) has posted back-to-back wins for the first time in more than three weeks. After defeating Calgary 5-4 in overtime on Thursday, the Lightning opened their three-game trip with Saturday's 3-2 win over Columbus. "When you're winning games, you're gaining confidence," said center Steven Stamkos, who ranks in the league's top 10 with 37 points. "You're going out and doing things and not thinking about them. When we were on our skid there, maybe you're thinking too much; you don't want to make a mistake. "Things are obviously going better now." While Stamkos' tremendous numbers haven't always translated into wins, he's come up big in the two wins, posting a goal and an assist in each and totaling seven points in his last three games. The forward has four goals and an assist in his three most recent meetings in this series. Stamkos and the Lightning now look for carry their momentum over versus San Jose (17-10-3), which had dropped seven of nine prior to posting a pair of victories. The Sharks defeated Colorado 5-4 on Thursday before handing Edmonton a 3-2 defeat Saturday. San Jose has won a season-high three straight at home. "You have to take care of your home ice," said captain Joe Thornton, who snapped a season-worst 13-game goal drought. "Now we need to build on this and start a little streak going." The Sharks have to like their chances of doing just that given their recent success versus the Lightning. San Jose, which has outscored Tampa Bay 24-11 in taking five of six in the series, has gone 6-1-0 with one tie in its last eight at home. Antti Niemi made 23 saves Saturday, improving to 8-2-0 with a 2.10 goals-against average over his last 10 home games. In his only career appearance against the Lightning, Niemi posted an 18-save shutout in a 4-0 win Dec. 13, 2009, while with Chicago. Tampa Bay, which ranks near the bottom of the league with a 3.28 GAA, could give Mathieu Garon a third consecutive start after he turned away 26 shots Saturday. "We closed (out) everything," he said. "We didn't give them much. That's how we have to close a game. "It's huge for us, keeping that lead and getting two wins in a row. It's the start of something here." Garon had gone 0-6-1 with a 4.13 GAA in his previous seven starts versus the Sharks before winning his last two. He stopped all 35 shots in a 3-0 road win while with Columbus on Nov. 20, 2010. Teammate Dwayne Roloson is 0-3-1 in his last four meetings with San Jose. He's 0-4-0 with a 5.22 GAA over his last five starts overall. Whoever is in goal could catch a break with Sharks forward Martin Havlat unlikely to be available. Havlat was hurt while jumping over the boards trying to get on the ice Saturday, and could miss a couple games. Another San Jose injury came to light when star defenseman Dan Boyle, a member of Tampa Bay's 2004 Stanley Cup-winning squad, mentioned he had been playing with a broken foot since Nov. 10 in a postgame interview. Boyle isn't expected to miss any time. Since going 12 contests with just one point, he's recorded four in as many games.
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