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Tampa Bay Lightning at Detroit Red Wings: Two rivals vie for first in the Atlantic

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Can Detroit continue their impressive run or will Tampa Bay once again defeat their nemesis?

Tampa Bay Lightning at Detroit Red Wings: GAME #6

Time: 7:30 Eastern Time

Location: Little Caesar’s Arena

Broadcast / Streaming: SUN, TVAS, SN1, FS—D

Opponent SBNation Site: Wingin’ It in Motown

Preview:

The Lightning will visit Little Caesar’s Arena for the first time in franchise history tonight to take on the surprisingly good Red Wings, who are off to a 4-1-0 start themselves. These teams are tied for first in the Atlantic division alongside the Toronto Maple Leafs, with 8 points apiece.

Given the expectations of many pundits during the preseason, Detroit is off to arguable the most impressive start of any club this year. You could say that this also applies to the Colorado Avalanche, but for the sake of this match-up, let’s just say I’m shocked that the Wings have more wins than losses to start the season.

Looking at their roster on paper, I think the Wings are overachieving, but they are also finally getting quality goaltending from Jimmy Howard, who had an injury-ravaged season last year. Howard is currently sporting a gaudy .955 save % and 1.62 goals-against average, compared to Vasilevskiy’s .911 save % and 3.20 goals-against average. Vasy’s numbers are not indicative of his play, however, as he has made the timely saves when the Bolts have needed such, before turning in a stellar performance against the Blues on Saturday night. As for Howard, he has been lights out and looks to be rejuvenated after re-securing the number 1 role out of training camp this year.

Former Lightning / Crunch defenseman Luke Witkowski signed a two-year, one-way contract with the Wings this off-season worth $750,000 per year. He has played in two of the Wings’ games this season with 0 points and 2 penalty minutes.

Fun trivia note: The Wings became the first team to defeat the Vegas Golden Knights, which came in a 6-3 drubbing of the expansion club on Friday night in the desert. Tonight marks the first of five regular season meetings between the two clubs, and interestingly enough, it is the only NHL game on the slate tonight.

Comparison:

2013 1st rounder, Anthony Mantha, is off to a helluva start for the Red Wings, scoring 3 goals and adding 4 assists in their first five games. 2011 second rounder Nikita Kucherov has one-upped him, however, with 5 goals and 3 assists in Tampa Bay’s first five games.

The play of both wingers tonight will surely have an impact on tonight’s final outcome. Their centers, Dylan Larkin and Steven Stamkos, respectively, are also off to great starts, with 1 goal each and 5 assists for Larkin but 6 assists for Stamkos. Whichever of these combinations of Larkin—Mantha and Stamkos—Kucherov produces more points will likely come out victorious tonight.

Tampa Bay Lightning:

Forward Lines:

Vladislav Namestnikov — Steven Stamkos — Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat — Gabriel Dumont — Yanni Gourde

Alex Killorn — Tyler Johnson - Rotating among other 10 forwards

Chris Kunitz — Cedric Paquette — Ryan Callahan

Defense Pairings:

Victor Hedman — Jake Dotchin

Mikhail Sergachev — Anton Stralman

Braydon Coburn — Dan Girardi

Slater Koekkoek

Goaltenders:

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Peter Budaj

Lineup Notes:

My guess is the Lightning continue to go with the 11/7 alignment until it no longer works for Cooper in the short-term. Brayden did not participate in morning. The team is calling it body maintenance. We’ll find out if that’s truly the case at game time.

Detroit Red Wings:

Forward Lines:

Tomas TatarHenrik ZetterbergGustav Nyquist

Anthony Mantha — Dylan Larkin — Justin Abdelkader

Martin FrkFrans NielsenDarren Helm

Luke GlendeningRiley SheahanDavid Booth

Defense Pairings:

Niklas KronwallMike Green

Jonathan EricssonTrevor Daley

Xavier OuelletNick Jensen

Goaltenders:

Jimmy Howard

Petr Mrazek