The Lightning close out their last road trip before the Olympic break with the Minnesota Wild tonight. Minnesota is another one of those Western Conference teams that would be just fine in the East this season - 65 points, a 29-21-7 record, which would be good enough for second place in the Lake Woebegone Metro division (which the Pittsburgh Penguins are running away with, with 80 points). In the Atlantic Division, though? They'd be in the exact same spot they're in currently in the Central - fourth. Honestly, when you look at things, they're not that bad off - they're in prime wild card contention in the West, even if they're double-digits behind their division leaders (Chicago has 82 points, St. Louis has 79, and Colorado has 77 - 17, 14, and 12 point differentials).
While Josh Harding's numbers have been unbelievable in his 29 appearances, it won't be Harding starting in goal for the Wild tonight. Darcy Kuemper will be making his 14th appearance of the season tonight against the Lightning. Darcy, 6-3-2, has a .913 save percentage and a 2.63 goals-against average.
Valtteri Filppula, who missed Saturday's game against Montreal, was practicing on the second line with his usual comrades in Alex Killorn and Teddy Purcell. The Bolts were also rolling four lines in the morning skate, according to reports from the beat writers - with Tom Pyatt centering Nikita Kucherov and J.T. Brown while Nate Thompson centered B.J. Crombeen and Ryan Malone. With how often the Lightning have utilized the 11 forward, 7 defenseman roster split, the concept of four forward lines almost seems like a foreign object, doesn't it?
Both teams match up rather closely on special-teams, so unless one has an off-night, this should be a moot aspect of play - Minnesota is tied for 17th in the league with a 17.9% power-play efficiency while Tampa Bay is 20th with a 17% efficiency. Penalty-kill wise, the clubs are separated by 2/10ths of a percentage point (80.4% for Tampa Bay, 80.2 for Minnesota).
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- 2014 NHL trade deadline: Responding to Lightning top-4 defenseman speculation