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Tarnished in Tampa

TampacupTampa Bay coach John Tortorella has long maintained the only way to create a rivalry is to have some great blood battles in the postseason. Torts points to the games his Lightning had in the playoffs against Philadelphia as evidence.

Hard to argue with that logic. The Panthers had a good rivalry going with Philly for a while after the 1996 playoffs run, but a lot of crummy seasons in between kind of muddled that.

Still, the Panthers look at Tampa Bay as a rival even if the Lightning don't reciprocate the hate (PS: That rhymes).  The two teams have locked up in eight different fights in their six games going into tonight's game at  CorporateSponsorship Arena West in beautiful downtown Tampa.

And Florida can go a long way toward establishing some more Tampa Bay dislike in the coming weeks. The Bolts, you see, were once a postseason lock. Then they started to suck. Really bad, like losing at home to Ottawa by a 7-2 score bad.

So, the Bolts are teetering on the brink of not making the playoffs. Since the Panthers really don't have anything else to play for, maybe messing up the hopes of their rivals is something to shoot for. As Herald colleague Sarah Rothschild explained today CHECK IT OUT HERE YO the Panthers can cause some serious damage to not only the Bolts, but Carolina too.

So they have that going for them, which is nice.

-- Going back to yesterday's lengthy post, which some have said they liked and some absolutely despised, but whatever: Talked to JM today, and he confirmed Murph the Surf's two-year contract starting next year is indeed a one-way deal, so bet the farm (if you live on one) that he makes the team out of camp next year.

-- Bad news Panther fans: Marc Denis is in net tonight for Tampa Bay. He's 2-1 against the Cats this year, stopping 92 percent of the shots. Johan Holmqvist, now available after suffering from the ever-popular 'flu-like conditions,' is 1-1-1 with a GAA of 4.54 and save percentage of 85 percent against Florida this year.

-- A special thanks to the Tampa exec who authorized the distribution of those really annoying bang sticks for tonight's game. I tried stealing as many as I could during the morning skate, but they just repopulated. Damned thunder sticks. Thanks a lot for making these stupid things popular Anaheim (Yeah, I know they changed their name) Angels. Thundersticks

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