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TONIGHT'S GAME: vs. HARTFORD

What: Tampa Bay Lightning (25-35-8) versus Hartford Whalers (22-37-7).

Where: Hartford Civic Center.

When: 7:35.

TV/Radio: WTOG-Ch.44; WFNS-AM 910, WLVU-FM 106.3.

About the series: The Lightning holds a 2-0 advantage, with two games left against the Whalers _ both in Hartford. Tampa Bay scored four goals both times in the home wins _ 4-1 on Nov. 24 and 4-2 Saturday.

Who's injured: Tampa Bay _ Roman Hamrlik and Petr Klima, sidelined with shoulder injuries, did not make the trip. Hartford _ Will not play: goalie Mario Gosselin (knee), center Darren Turcotte (knee), defensemen Bryan Marchment (ankle) and Adam Burt (shoulder) and right wing Jim Sandlack (foot); day-to-day: Robert Kron (shoulder).

About the Whalers: Hartford is 14 games out of the playoff race and second to last in the Northeast Division. The Whalers, like the Lightning, have endured a lot of one-goal losses. The first time they met this season, Hartford played a tight game and hit the goal posts three or four times, recalled Pierre Maguire, who became coach after the 19th game of the season. And last week, Maguire said, the team couldn't win back-to-back games. (The Whalers won in Miami the night before.) Sound familiar? Center Geoff Sanderson leads with 33 goals (52 points), and right winger Pat Verbeek has 32 goals and 27 assists. Goaltending has kept the team out of the basement; Sean Burke has a .912 save percentage and a 2.72 goals-against average.

About the Lightning: To reach the pplayoffs, Tampa Bay needs to pick up points two at a time. "We have to win in Hartford and in Philly," coach Terry Crisp said. "Naturally, we're looking for a sweep, but we can't afford to look beyond how many points we have or don't have. Each game for us very important." With Klima and Hamrlik out, the Lightning lacks explosiveness and must call on the workhorses to deliver. Rob DiMaio and Gerard Gallant have been hot lately, scoring eight goals between them in the past seven games.

_ LIZ ROBBINS

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