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Tampa Bay Lightning vs New Jersey Devils: A Battle for Eastern Supremacy

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A couple of first-place teams match up on Tuesday night.

Tampa Bay Lightning at New Jersey Devils: GAME #7

Time: 7:30 pm Eastern Time

Location: Prudential Center

Broadcast/Streaming: NBC Sports (woo-hoo national exposure!)

Opponent SBNation Site: All About the Jersey

Preview:

A month ago, if you told us that the Lightning would be 5-1 two weeks into the season we might have slightly raised an eyebrow. It’s not that surprising a record, but there were enough variables heading into the season that a fast start was not assured. Would Steven Stamkos return to form after his knee injury? Would Nikita Kucherov continue his goal-scoring ways? Would Dan Girardi break down after blocking shots the way the T-1000 blocked bullets at the end of T2?

So far everything is coming up roses for the Bolts. Stamkos has 9 points in 6 games, Kucherov has decided to score all of the goals and Girardi is playing a solid 15 minutes despite inspiring Tweets like this:

Have the Lighting been perfect? No. The defense is still a bit shaky (although playing better in the last view games) and their possession numbers aren’t the greatest, but they’ve been able to overcome any deficiencies with a dominating first line and a 28.6% conversion rate on the power play (oh, and a little help from Andrei Vasilevskiy).

Their opponent tonight is the surprising New Jersey Devils. There weren’t many analysts predicting the Devils to be atop of the Metro Division after five games. Yet, there they are with a 4-1 record. They are led by a pair of rookies—surprisingly neither are named Nico Hischier.

On defense, free-agent signing Will Butcher has 8 assists in 5 games. The 2016-17 Hobey Baker winner chose the Devils this summer after not signing with the Colorado Avalanche and has lived up to the hype. Our friends over at All About the Jersey broke down all of his assists to see if he was just lucky or actually contributing to the goals being scored. They seem quite excited about the 22-year-old.

Driving their offense is 19-year-old Jesper Bratt with 6 points in 5 games. He has slowed down a bit, being held pointless in his last two games, but the youngster has brought some life to a Devils team that was expected to contend for the first overall pick instead of first place.

This is the second back-to-back of the season for the Lightning. The first one didn’t go so well as the game in Sunrise last week was perhaps their worst effort of the season. After a win in Detroit, the Bolts will have to get off to another quick start in the game.

Comparison chart:

Rheaume and Bergevin battle
In lieu of a chart here is a photo from the vault featuring both teams.
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images/NHLI

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

Vladislav Namestnikov — Steven Stamkos — Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat — Gabriel DumontYanni Gourde

Alex KillornTyler Johnson - Rotating cast of characters

Chris Kunitz — Cedric Paquette — Ryan Callahan

Defense Pairings

Victor Hedman — Jake Dotchin

Mikhail SergachevAnton Stralman

Braydon Coburn — Dan Girard

iSlater Koekkoek

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Peter Budaj

Lineup notes: It will be interesting to see if Coach Cooper inserts a couple of players that have been scratched recently (JT Brown or Andrej Sustr) to get some fresh legs in the game. It could also be Peter Budaj’s first start of the season.

Opponent lines

Forward Lines

Taylor Hall - Pavel Zacha - Kyle Palmieri

Marcus Johansson - Nico Hischier - Drew Stafford

Jesper Bratt - Adam Henrique - Jimmy Hayes

Miles Wood - Blake Coleman - Brian Gibbons

Defense Pairings

Andy Greene - Damon Severson

John Moore - Steven Santini

Will Butcher - Ben Lovejoy

Goalies

Corey Schneider

Keith Kincaid