Lightning look to strike back against Rangers - The Hockey News on Sports Illustrated

Lightning look to strike back against Rangers

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Tampa Bay (4-3-4) at NY Rangers (10-4-1), 7:00pm EST

NEW YORK (Ticker) -- The Tampa Bay Lightning hope their third

shot at the New York Rangers will be the charm.

The first-place Rangers host the improving Lightning on Thursday

night as they look to replicate their early-season success.

The clubs opened the season in Prague, Czech Republic as part of

NHL Premiere 2008, with the Rangers sweeping the two-game set

with a pair of 2-1 victories.

But fortunes have changed for Tampa Bay over the last month.

The first two weeks of new coach Barry Melrose's tenure were

often miserable. On their return from Prague, the Lightning

dropped three straight overtime games before finally registering

their first win of the season on October 21 against the woeful

Atlanta Thrashers.

Goaltender Olaf Kolzig, who signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal

with Tampa Bay this offseason, has taken a back seat to Mike

Smith. The 26-year-old Smith, a backup the last two seasons, is

3-2-3 this campaign with a 2.16 goals-against average.

Offense, however, has been hard to come by. The Lightning have

scored a league-low 24 goals this season.

Tampa Bay had its three-game winning streak snapped in New

Jersey on Wednesday, losing a 4-3 decision in a shootout to the

Devils.

As they get set to meet the Rangers for the third time in just

over a month, the Lightning hope they have caught them at just

the right moment. New York still is the top-ranked team in the

Eastern Conference with 21 points, but it has dropped two in a

row.

The Rangers fell at home to the New York Islanders, 2-1, on

Tuesday night - three days after surrendering five third-period

goals in a stunning 5-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Rangers are led by netminder Henrik Lundqvist, who has

registered an 8-3-1 record and a 2.00 GAA this season.

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