Lightning vs. Panthers Preview

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SUNRISE, FL (AP) - The Florida Panthers have done an outstanding job containing Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis in two meetings with the Tampa Bay Lightning this season.

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Not surprisingly, they have two wins as a result.

Florida will try to complete an already successful six-game homestand with another victory Friday night against the Lightning.

According to NHL odds and oddsmakers from online sports book have made the Panthers -118 money line favorites for Friday's game against the Lightning. Current NHL Public Betting Information shows that 67% of more than 1,890 bets for this game have been placed on the Panthers -118.

The biggest reason for Tampa Bay's success this season has been the potent combination of Stamkos and St. Louis, who both rank among the league's top scorers with 65 and 57 points, respectively. Stamkos leads the NHL with 37 goals and is one point behind Sidney Crosby for the league lead.

Both of Tampa Bay's top scorers have been kept in check by Florida (21-20-4) this season, combining for no goals and one assist. Tomas Vokoun beat the Lightning (28-15-5) 6-0 at home Oct. 16, and the Panthers prevailed 4-3 on the road in a shootout Nov. 27.

Stamkos and St. Louis combined for seven goals and five assists in the 2009-10 season series as Tampa Bay went 3-3-0.

Limiting Stamkos again may be difficult with the star center in the midst of another torrid stretch. He extended his goal streak to four games with two more scores in a 3-2 shootout win at Atlanta on Thursday.

Stamkos, who had goals in a career-high seven straight Feb. 13-March 11, has back-to-back multigoal games for the first time.

"I just go to the net," Stamkos said. "That's something I'm trying to focus on this year. You just go to the net and get the dirty goal."

Dwayne Roloson turned in his second consecutive strong performance in net, helping the Lightning remain one point ahead of Washington for the Southeast Division lead.

Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher could go with backup Dan Ellis instead of starting Roloson on back-to-back nights. Ellis, though, has lost his last two starts - allowing four goals in each - after a 4-0-1 run.

Florida blew a two-goal lead for the second straight game in a 3-2 overtime loss to visiting Columbus on Wednesday, giving up the tying goal with 53 seconds left in regulation before R.J. Umberger scored on a power play late in the extra period.

On Monday, the Panthers lost to Atlanta in a shootout after allowing two goals in the final two minutes of regulation.

"This is a repeat of a lot of other nights," coach Peter DeBoer said. "We get the lead, have some opportunities to extend it, we don't, and the other team pushes back. We lose our composure in the last few minutes of the game. That's the story, it's blown chances."

Despite DeBoer's frustration, his club has matched a season high with points in five consecutive games (3-0-2) - all at home. Florida is 7 for 22 on the power play during that span after scoring one goal with the man advantage in its previous 21 opportunities.

Vokoun returned to the lineup against Columbus after sitting the previous three games and allowed at least three goals for the fourth straight start. He is 4-0-0 with a 1.72 goals-against average, though, in his past four games against Tampa Bay.

The Panthers are 7-2-2 at home against the Lightning since the start of the 2007-08 season.

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