Blue Jackets vs. Lightning Preview
Tampa, FL (AP) - Despite a stretch of inconsistent play, the Tampa Bay Lightning have held at least a share of first place in the Southeast Division every day this month.
The Lightning might need to take advantage of a struggling Columbus Blue Jackets defense to keep that streak going through Tuesday night.
According to NHL odds and oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made the Lightning -166 money line favorites for Tuesday's game against the Blue Jackets. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 58% of more than 57 bets for this game have been placed on the Lightning -166.
Tampa Bay (26-15-5) caught Washington in the standings Dec. 30, and hasn't fallen out of first place since then despite losing four of six. The Capitals matched the Lightning's 57 points with a 3-1 win over Ottawa on Sunday.
After averaging two goals over their first seven games this month, Tampa Bay scored four times in Carolina on Saturday night but continued to struggle in its own end during a 6-4 loss. The Lightning have allowed 26 goals in their past six games and gave up four on the power play Saturday.
"Our play is too up and down, you know," forward Martin St. Louis said. "Execution, smarts, attention to details - we're all over the map right now. We're there some nights. We're completely not other nights. You can see, the nights we're not, what kind of results we get."
St. Louis' team will try for a better result against the Blue Jackets (21-20-4), who have been outscored 32-17 while going 1-5-1 in January.
Columbus, though, took three of four points from Central Division-leading Detroit during a home-and-home series this weekend. The Blue Jackets scrambled for a point Saturday in a 6-5 overtime loss, blowing a two-goal lead before Rick Nash scored with 1:04 left in regulation.
"Our effort has been a lot better the last couple of games," forward R.J. Umberger said. "We gave up some leads, but we showed a lot of heart in battling back."
The matchup at the St. Pete Times Forum could be another high-scoring affair with the Blue Jackets allowing 3.13 goals per game this season and the Lightning giving up an average of 3.17.
Columbus, though, might have a tougher task in dealing with Tampa Bay's more dynamic offense, led by NHL goal-scoring leader Steven Stamkos.
Stamkos has four points in his past two games after recording one in his first six this month. He assisted on both goals in a 2-1 home victory over Columbus on March 24, 2009, with St. Louis scoring the overtime winner.
St. Louis has a franchise-best 10 points (six goals and four assists) in 10 games against the Blue Jackets.
While Stamkos and St. Louis will try to keep scoring, Dwayne Roloson will try for a better effort if given the third chance for his 200th career win. Since shutting out Washington 3-0 on Wednesday night, Roloson has allowed nine goals in his past two starts.
That could have coach Guy Boucher looking to Dan Ellis, who is 5-0-1 with a 1.31 goals-against average in six career starts against Columbus. Roloson is 10-9-2 with a 2.13 GAA all-time versus the Blue Jackets, who have a pair of struggling goaltenders.
Steve Mason is 1-2-1 with a 4.13 GAA in his four games this month, while Mathieu Garon is 0-5-0 with a 5.32 GAA in his last six appearances.
Garon, though is 2-1-0 with a 1.80 GAA in four starts against the Lightning, and Mason is 1-0-1 with a 1.95 GAA in two meetings.Tampa Bay has won four of five all-time meetings at home against Columbus but is 5-4-1 overall in the series.
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