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Atlantic Division contestants; Tampa Bay Lightning a Detroit Red Wings preview

Unless you are at the very top of the very bottom, it's a close-close contest in the NHL's Atlantic Division. Just perfect for adding weight to tonight's game!

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Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Where: Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan | When: 7:30 PM EST
Radio: 970 AM WFLA | Television: Sun Sports | Twitter: Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: Winging it in Motown, Abel to Yzerman

Once again, it'll be a Tuesday evening at Joe Louis arena in Detroit and the Tampa Bay Lightning will be playing against the Detroit Red Wings. The franchises squared off in October exactly three weeks ago to the day. The difference between that arrangement and this one is that the Bolts are not coming into the building on the flip-side of back-to-back games.  They are, however, playing their third game in four nights. It's not like the Red Wings have had an easier schedule pacing though; Detroit played back-to-back games on October 30th and 31st but they've had a pair of days off between them and today.

While there are direct elements about the contest to be discussed, how about the Atlantic Division in general? This is the Lightning's sixth game against an Atlantic Division rival (the club's played Buffalo twice, Boston twice and the Red Wings once already) but we haven't exactly looked at the overall picture of the standings:

As you can see, Montreal is running away with things so far, having scored 26 more goals than opposition in their 13 games played. After Montreal, things get considerably murky in the division; the Lightning are in second place by way of a single point lead over the resurrected Bruins (who started the season in mire). The only clear out-of-it-at-the-moment club is Toronto, who has 6 points overall and has been outscored by 12 goals so far this season.

The standings and how close the middle-six clubs are puts weight on this game (though it should already have weight just out of being in-division foes with some personnel ties). In fact, with the pace of both the Lightning and the Red Wings, this should be a really interesting and likely tight contest. The Bolts are 3-5-2 in their past 10 games while the Red Wings are 4-5-1... of course Detroit's only played 11 games this season and the Lightning have played 13, so take that with a shrug.

Detroit's had some big, banged up players - losing Pavel Datsyuk, Mike Green and Brad Richards to the injury bug. Datsyuk and Green were part of the morning skate for the Red Wings today, but as of this writing there is no guarantee they'll be in the lineup tonight for the Wings.  Jimmy Howard is expected to start in the net for Detroit.

Both clubs are mid-pack on the power play with a lone point separating them in the rankings (Detroit is 13th in the NHL with a 20.5% conversion rate while the Lightning are tied with the Blackhawks for 14th, having a 19.5% efficiency). On the other side of special teams... Well, the Lightning are still in a mire on the Penalty Kill but better than they were to start the season; they're ranked 20th (tied with San Jose) with a 76.9 kill rate. Detroit is ranked 14th in the league on the man-disadvantage with an 82.5% effectiveness in stopping opposing power plays.

On the Lightning end, is it noteworthy or how-it-should-be that the two biggest self-groomed names on the club are the leading scorers for the team? Defenseman Victor Hedman leads the Lightning in points with 10 in 12 games played this season. Steven Stamkos, on the other hand, is #2 overall on the club with 8 points in 13 games played (6 goals, 2 assists). The #3 man on the team is former Red Wing Valtteri Filppula (6 points in 13 games played, 1 goal and 5 assists) who also happens to wear the albatross in the plus/minus category (minus-7) for the club.

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