Time: 8:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: Xcel Energy Center
Broadcast/Streaming: SunS, FS-N, FS-WI
Opponent SB Nation Site: Hockey Wilderness
The Tampa Bay Lightning arrive in Minnesota to play the Wild Saturday night for their first game of a five-game road trip, their longest stint away from Amalie Arena this season. The Wild are a middling team struggling to keep the puck out of their own net, but while this may seem like an easy two points for the Lightning, they haven’t always put on their best performances against weaker teams so far this season.
The Wild head into tonight’s game on the second-half of a back-to-back, having played the Dallas Stars to a 3-1 victory on Friday night. Meanwhile, the Lightning will play the first night of a back-to-back, heading for the Windy City to play the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday.
Tampa proved again on Thursday night against the Detroit Red Wings that they continue to struggle with consistency out of the gate. On the whole, they have started games relatively slowly this season and will have to try and break out of that habit against Minnesota. However, their slow starts haven’t cost them yet, thanks to facing less offensively dangerous opponents and the work of Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Lightning remain the only team in the NHL with a perfect 100% on the penalty kill. Tampa Bay has killed off 23 straight penalties to start the season; an impressive feat, considering they average about 4.6 penalties a game.
The one silver lining? The Wild have struggled to score in all areas of the ice this season, so while they do have 3 power play goals, the Lightning may be able to get away with taking penalties in this game. The Bolts shouldn’t take advantage of it, or anything, but their habit of playing several minutes shorthanded might not cost them just yet.
Still, Tampa should keep an eye on Minnesota’s mobile blueline - goals from Matt Dumba (jumping into the slot) and Ryan Suter (who scored from below the goal line) helped push Minnesota past Dallas on Friday, another huge two points for a team still trying to determine its identity.
While the Lightning are all healthy (the Bolts welcomed Ryan Callahan back to the lineup after off-season shoulder surgery on Thursday), the Wild are not. Matt Hendricks suffered an injury on Tuesday against Arizona, joining Joel Eriksson Ek on the injured list and pushing veteran Nate Prosser into the lineup. Matt Read was recalled from AHL Iowa and played on Minnesota’s first line against Dallas.
Although they’ve only won three games this season, the Wild have been fairly unlucky in regards to injuries and bounces. They’ve shown traces of being a good team, but have struggled against fast teams and rely on goaltender Devan Dubnyk to bail them out far too often. As the Wild are playing their second game in as many nights, backup Alex Stalock faces a tall task to stop the now-offensively thriving Lightning.
Jason Zucker - Eric Staal - Matt Read
Zach Parise - Mikko Koivu - Mikael Granlund
Nino Niederreiter - Charlie Coyle - Jordan Greenway
Nate Prosser - Eric Fehr - J.T. Brown
Ryan Suter - Matt Dumba
Jonas Brodin - Jared Spurgeon
Nick Seeler - Greg Pateryn
Tampa Bay Lightning
Yanni Gourde - Brayden Point - Steven Stamkos
Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Mathieu Joseph
J.T. Miller - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan
Victor Hedman - Dan Girardi
Ryan McDonagh - Anton Stralman
Braydon Coburn - Mikhail Sergachev