(Sports Network) - The Detroit Red Wings will aim for their first three-game winning streak in over a month when they visit the Tampa Bay Lightning for tonight's battle between first-place clubs at St. Pete Times Forum.
The Red Wings, who are leading the Central Division with 74 points, had lost three out of four games prior to sweeping the Boston Bruins in a home-and-home series this past weekend. Detroit slammed the B's, 6-1, in Boston on Friday and then notched Sunday's 4-2 victory at Joe Louis Arena.
Todd Bertuzzi recorded two goals in each game against the Bruins, giving him 12 tallies this season. On Sunday, Bertuzzi scored in the first period to tie the score at 1-1 and also registered the game's final goal in the third stanza.
"I thought we did a real good job. I thought we got better as the game went on," said Detroit head coach Mike Babcock.
The Red Wings hope to get a boost at the back end tonight as Brad Stuart is expected return from a broken jaw that has sidelined him since early January. Stuart suffered the injury on Jan. 7 when Calgary's Tom Kostopoulos delivered a blind-side hit to his head. Kostopoulos was given a six-game suspension for the illegal hit.
"Obviously when we get these key players back we'll spend more time in the offensive zone and less time in the defensive zone," Babcock told his team's official website. "That makes you automatically better defensively which is important."
Detroit is 17-8-2 as the visiting team this season and is kicking off a three- game road trip tonight.
The Red Wings have dominated the Lightning in recent years, winning four straight encounters and posting a 5-0 record with one tie in the last six matchups. The Lightning's last win over Detroit came in Tampa on Jan. 7, 2003 and the Red Wings have won two straight at the Forum since then.
The Lightning will try to bounce back tonight after getting dealt a loss by the visiting Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. Tampa lost the contest in the shootout stage to fall five points behind Philly for the Eastern Conference lead.
Despite losing three of their last five games, the Lightning still have a respectable 5-2-1 mark so far on a 12-game homestand. The Bolts are 19-6-3 overall on home ice this season.
Tampa Bay is also four points ahead of Washington for the Southeast Division lead.
Kimmo Timonen registered the game-winning goal for the Flyers in the seventh round of the shootout on Tuesday. Philadelphia won the contest, 4-3, and avoided being swept by Tampa in the season series.
"This was a battle between two evenly-matched teams," said Tampa Bay's Randy Jones, a former Flyer.
Tampa defenseman Matt Smaby and forward Nate Thompson are both questionable for tonight's contest. Thompson has sat out three straight games with a concussion, while Smaby missed the last game with flu-like symptoms.