TAMPA, Fla. — It will take the 56th and final game of the regular season to determine who owns the home-ice advantage in the first-round series between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers. These are two teams that clearly do not like each other. They play for the eighth and final time Monday night after Saturday’s fight fest — which included four fighting majors and 154 penalty minutes!
"It’s funny, you go through a whole regular season, and all of a sudden a flip of the switch you get down to the last game or two and playoff hockey, and it turns into a man’s league,” Lightning defenseman Luke Schenn said. “It happens year after year. That’s why you need everyone to stick together. We saw it last year, the team’s that win everyone sticks together and plays a physical brand of hockey.”
The Lightning hope tonight’s match-up sets the tone for their upcoming first-round playoff series against...the Panthers. If the Bolts can win in regulation; they will secure a second-place finish in the central division and home-ice advantage for the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“You play them the last two games of the regular season, that doesn’t happen very often then you get them in the first round of the playoffs,” Schenn said. “This is a unique situation, on top of that, both teams are playing for home ice. No question it’s going to carry over. Both are proud teams. We have a bit of a rivalry going on with them, played each other a number of times.”
Of late, the Panthers have dominated that rivalry, out-scoring the Lightning 10-4 in the last two games, both Lightning losses. Compounding the problem, Tampa Bay could be without several players in this game, including Pat Maroon, who is serving a one-game suspension for unsportsmanlike conduct. Barclay Goodrow is also out with an upper-body injury suffered on Saturday. Three starting defensemen are also listed as day-to-day, Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, and Jan Rutta.
Puck drops at 7 p.m. ET in Sunrise.