Colorado Avalanche web staff contributed to this story.
AVALANCHE (32-13-5) at LIGHTNING (30-16-5)
TV: Altitude 2, Sun Sports
Last 10: Colorado 7-2-1; Tampa Bay 5-4-1
Season series: The Avalanche and Lightning haven't faced off in more than two years. Colorado won the last game 2-1 in a shootout on Dec. 23, 2011. The Lightning won 6-5 before that, on Dec. 4, 2010 -- the last time the Avs played at Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Big story: Saturday's game will pit two of the NHL's most surprising teams in the first of two meetings this season. The Avalanche has won four road games in a row, including a 3-2 victory against the Florida Panthers on Friday. The Lightning is coming off a 4-3 shootout victory against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday, which was its first home win in more than a month.
"Our seasons are probably mirroring each other, as well as our teams are mirroring each other in ways," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said Friday.
Avalanche: Colorado played 40 terrific minutes of hockey against the Panthers, but Semyon Varlamov bailed them out in the third period, when the Avalanche was outshot 20-6 -- including 15-0 in the final 13:13.
Coach Patrick Roy was happy with the result, if not the way it was achieved.
"We were outstanding in the first two periods; unfortunately the third was not as good, and this is something we have to be better at," Roy said. "I thought that was a great test for us in some ways because we were up by three goals, we knew they were going to put pressure on us, and I thought it was a good opportunity to play a strong third period in our own end. That wasn't the case.
"We need to learn to win those games, like 4-1 and 5-1, and bear down on our chances. But, you know what? A win is a win, and this is a very important two points for us."
Lightning: Cooper and Roy are in their first full season behind their respective benches. Cooper was hired late last season, and Roy returned during the summer to the team he backstopped to Stanley Cup titles in 1996 and 2001.
Roy's performance in his first year with the Avalanche has impressed Cooper.
"He's won wherever he's gone as a player, and he's won wherever he's gone as a coach," Cooper said. "He wasn't a hire just because of his name. You can tell by the way his team plays that he's doing a really good job."
Cooper, a lawyer-turned-coach, said he feels that Roy's experience as a Hall of Fame player gives him some advantages.
"I've had to lean on people a lot to cut my teeth, travel and the rigors of the schedule; he's well ahead of me on the curve in all aspects," he said.
Who's hot: Avs forward Ryan O'Reilly had a goal and an assist against Florida, giving him five points in Colorado's past five games. Paul Stastny also scored against the Panthers and has 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in his past eight games. He leads all Avalanche skaters in January points. Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov is 9-1-1 in his past 11 decisions.
For Tampa Bay, Lightning captain Martin St. Louis has eight goals and five assists during a nine-game point streak
Injury report: Avalanche defenseman Nate Guenin (ankle) flew with the Avalanche to Fort Lauderdale on Thursday but was a scratch Friday against the Panthers. He could return Saturday night. Center John Mitchell (illness) didn't make the team charter but is likely to join the squad at some point on the trip.
Defenseman Cory Sarich (back) remains on Injured Reserve for Colorado.
Lightning center Steven Stamkos (broken right leg) hopes to return before the Olympic break, and defensemen Brian Lee (knee) and Mattias Ohlund (knee) are on Injured Reserve and haven't played all season.
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