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Tampa Bay Lightning at Calgary Flames preview: Best in the East vs. Best in the West...again

2004 Stanley Cup rematch tonight in Calgary.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Lightning at Calgary Flames: Game 36

Time: 9:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: Scotiabank Saddledome

Broadcast/Streaming: SunS

Opponent SBNation Site: Matchsticks and Gasoline

Preview:

The Lightning head to Calgary tonight to face the Flames, who currently sit in first place in the Pacific Division and in a tie for first place overall in the Western Conference. With the Lightning still in first place in the Eastern Conference, this is another matchup of top-tier NHL teams. With the Lightning facing the Leafs and Jets in two of their previous three games, they’ve had several of these recently.

Last game, head coach Jon Cooper made several adjustments to the lineup. Ryan Callahan missed the game with an upper body injury, and with Mathieu Joseph still out with a lower body injury, that meant Danick Martel got game action for the first time in a while.

On the blue line, Cooper scratched Braydon Coburn in favor of Erik Cernak and juggled the pairs. He bumped Anton Stralman up to the top pair, reuniting him with Victor Hedman. He put Cernak back with McDonagh on the second pair and slid Dan Girardi down to the third pair with Mikhail Sergachev. We likely won’t know until later this afternoon if the coaches decided to stick with this group or get Coburn back in the lineup.

The Flames come into the game following a shutout loss to the Stars that snapped a three game winning streak. They are led in scoring as always by Johnny Gaudreau. Matthew Tkachuk is second followed by Gaudreau’s linemates Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm.

Lindholm came over the Flames as part of the Dougie Hamilton trade last summer that also netted Noah Hanifin. Lindholm has been even better than expected having the best year of his career so far on the top line. Hanifin has been serviceable on the second pair but doesn’t show any signs of elevating beyond that.

Mark Giordano has been the best player on the blue line and is putting himself in the discussion for the Norris Trophy. Losing Hamilton as his partner hasn’t had as serious an impact as some expected and he looks more than capable of continuing to carry a top pair on his own.

In net, the Flames will like start “Big Save” Dave Rittich who seems to have taken the starting job from Mike Smith for the time being. Rittich has been a savior for the Flames giving them good enough goaltending to take advantage of how good their skaters have been.

The 2004 Stanley Cup rematch is the second-to-last game on this Western Canadian road trip for the Lightning. They’ll head to Edmonton on Saturday to wrap things up before heading home for the holiday break. So far they’ve gotten points in the first two games. They’ll look to keep that streak alive tonight in the Saddledome.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

Tyler Johnson - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat - Steven Stamkos - Yanni Gourde

Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - J.T. Miller

Adam Erne - Cedric Paquette - Danick Martel

Defense Pairings

Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman

Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak

Mikhail Sergachev - Dan Girardi

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Louis Domingue

Calgary Flames

Forward Lines

Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Elias Lindholm

Matthew Tkachuk - Mikael Backlund - Austin Czarnik

Kerby Rychel - Derek Ryan - Sam Bennett

Alan Quine - Mark Jankowski - Garnet Hathaway

Defense Pairings

Mark Giordano - T.J. Brodie

Noah Hanifin - Travis Hamonic

Oliver Kylington - Rasmus Andersson

Goalies

David Rittich

Mike Smith