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Lightning controls home-ice fate

WASHINGTON — Lightning captain Steven Stamkos still wonders what would have happened if Game 7 of the 2011 Eastern Conference final against the Bruins would have been played at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Not that the outcome — a 1-0 Boston victory at TD Garden — would have necessarily been different. It's just that "it would have been nice to have that game in Tampa."

"It is called home-ice advantage for a reason," Stamkos said.

Tampa Bay, with a victory over the Capitals today in its regular-season finale at the Verizon Center, will get home-ice advantage in its first-round playoff series with the Canadiens.

A win puts the Lightning second in the Atlantic Division with 101 points, one ahead of Montreal. The Canadiens, whose season ended Saturday with a win, have the tiebreaker if both teams finish with 100.

"It's in our power," Stamkos said. "The fans deserve it. Our city deserves it, and we certainly deserve it with how hard we've played and the amount of adversity we've overcome as a team."

Where does home ice really come into play? It is easy to point to a Game 7. But the home team gets the last personnel change, so having that advantage in four of seven games can be big, as is the chance to take advantage of the powerful emotional lift that can be gained from the home crowd.

For the Lightning, though, there also is this:

The team is terrific at home, where it tied a team record with 25 wins (25-10-6). Goaltender Anders Lindback, expected to get the bulk of the work if Ben Bishop (elbow) cannot play, also has been much better at home.

Lindback is 3-8-1 in 12 road games with a 3.35 goals-against average and a .879 save percentage. He is 4-4-1 in 10 games at the Tampa Bay Times Forum with a 2.70 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage.

Having the final personnel change and the emotional lift of playing in front of one's fans in four of seven games makes home-ice advantage well worth getting, defenseman Eric Brewer said.

Ultimately, though, winning in the playoffs comes down to this: "If you play well, it's going to work out well," Brewer said. "Just because you have a few things in your favor doesn't mean you'll be good if you don't play well. You still have to bring it."

At home and on the road.

INJURIES: Forwards Valtteri Filppula (lower body) and Ondrej Palat (upper body), defensemen Victor Hedman (lower body) and Sami Salo (upper body), and goaltender Ben Bishop (elbow) made the trip, though the team offered no updates on their conditions. Right wing Teddy Purcell stayed home with the flu, the team said.

Lightning controls home-ice fate 04/12/14 [Last modified: Saturday, April 12, 2014 10:39pm]
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