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Tampa Bay Lightning at Nashville Predators preview: The battle for first place

Tampa Bay takes on Nashville for the final time this season as both teams battle for sole possession of first place this evening.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Nashville Predators Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning at Nashville Predators: GAME# 21

Time: 8:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tennessee

Broadcast/Streaming: FS-TN, SUN

Opponent SBNation Site: On The Forecheck

The Tampa Bay Lightning look to close out their road trip with a victory this evening as they take on the Nashville Predators for the final time this season. By defeating the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday afternoon, the Lightning improved their record to 14-5-1 on the season, putting them in a tie for first with those same Predators.

Before we do a quick dive into this, let’s all rejoice at the beauty that was Anthony Cirelli’s game winning goal from Saturday (and erase the memory of a blowing a 5-1 lead in the third period).

It’s great that Cirelli and Mathieu Joseph are finally scoring goals. Tampa Bay has needed the line of Alex Killorn, Cirelli, and Joseph to heat up and they’ve done just that over the past several games. It can’t always be Brayden Point setting records for the fastest hat trick in the modern era carrying the load. Though, if he wants to, by all means let him keep scoring at this torrid pace (eyes his absurd 28% shooting percentage and prays regression doesn’t hit him too hard).

The road has been a bumpy one with starting goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy mending a broken foot and Louis Domingue taking over the starting role. On this road trip, Domingue has allowed 10 goals on 95 shots. That’s good for a save percentage of .895. Not the greatest performance, but the Lightning have essentially scored their way out of trouble going 2-1-0 through the first three games of the road trip.

Tampa Bay comes into tonight’s game looking to avenge it’s 4-1 loss to Nashville on November 1st. The Bolts had outplayed Nashville for the majority of that game, but were done in by their own mistakes at unfortunate times. Now, being in Nashville, these two contenders will battle for first place in the entire league.

If Tampa Bay wants to emerge victorious this evening, then they’ll have to limit the amount of chances Domingue sees. In Buffalo, the Lightning did a solid job in this regard, but failed to provide adequate coverage against Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Specifically, a once air-tight penalty kill has been ripped apart over the past two games by allowing five goals on their last nine penalties taken. This has dropped Tampa Bay’s overall penalty kill to 82.7% (6th) on the season—a far cry from the +90% a few games ago.

At even strength, the Lightning have only allowed five goals during this road trip, but the volume of shots has been a concern. After limiting Buffalo to 19 shots (18 at 5v5) on November 13th, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia shelled Domingue with 52 shots combined at 5v5. If it wasn’t for Domingue’s play keeping the score close at critical junctures, the Lightning could be looking at an 0-3-0 hole.

Nashville looks to continue winning in the month of November as they hold a 5-2-1 record since defeating Tampa Bay at the start of the month. Over their last three games, the Predators have also allowed 10 goals but on 88 shots. Most of the damage against Nashville has been inflicted at even strength over this time span. The Predators have been shorthanded nine times over their last three games and have only allowed one goal. However, even with this strong surge of late, Nashville’s penalty kill is still sitting at 79.7% on the season (18th).

The one special teams unit that is currently clicking for the Lightning is the power play. Over the last three games, Tampa Bay has scored seven times on 11 opportunities (64%). This has pushed the Lightning’s power-play, on the season, to 29.7% (4th best in the NHL). Conversely, Nashville is currently sporting the league’s worst power play at 12.8%. Nashville being this poor on both special teams is an oddity given how strong they are at 5v5, but it’s a weakness Tampa Bay can aim to exploit.

If Tampa Bay wants to come out of this game with a victory, they’ll have to limit their chances against while taking advantage of the chances they receive. It’s been a mixed bag in that department on the road trip (process wise), but all it takes is one strong game to provide a better outlook moving forward. Nashville doesn’t do a lot wrong on either side of the puck, and if the previous matchup on November 1st taught us anything, it’s that they will punish you if given tiny windows of opportunity.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

J.T. Miller - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov

Yanni Gourde - Brayden Point - Tyler Johnson

Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Mathieu Joseph

Adam Erne - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan

Danick Martel - Ondrej Palat (injured)

Defense Pairings

Victor Hedman - Dan Girardi

Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak

Braydon Coburn - Mikhail Sergachev

Slater Koekkoek - Anton Stralman (injured)

Goaltenders

Louis Domingue

Eddie Pasquale

Nashville Predators

Forward Lines

Filip Forsberg - Ryan Johansen - Viktor Arvidsson

Calle Jarnkrok - Kyle Turris - Craig Smith

Kevin Fiala - Colton Sissons - Ryan Hartman

Zak Rinaldo - Nick Bonino - Miikka Salomaki

Defense Pairings

Roman Josi - Ryan Ellis

Mattias Ekholm - PK Subban

Matt Irwin - Yannick Webber

Goalies

Pekka Rinne

Juuse Saros