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Tampa Bay Lightning at Carolina Hurricanes: Game 82 and a chance to clinch the Atlantic Division

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The Bolts need one more win to secure a division title.

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Lightning at Carolina Hurricanes: GAME# 82

Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: Amalie Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: SunS, FSCR

Opponent SBNation Site: PNC Arena

Preview

The Tampa Bay Lightning travel to Raleigh to face the Carolina Hurricanes with a chance to clinch the Atlantic Division title. The Lightning will need to come up with one more strong performance following a win last night in Tampa over the Buffalo Sabres. A win of in regulation or overtime would secure the Lightning their first Atlantic Division crown since the division realignment for the 2013-14 season. They would also clinch if Boston loses in regulation or if both teams lose in overtime or a shootout.

Winning the division would give the Lightning the chance to play the second wild card team instead of the third place team in the Atlantic. That would mean facing the fifth place team in the Metro instead of the Toronto Maple Leafs. To get an idea on who that might be we can look at the First Round Matchup chart from the vital hockeyviz.com.

The Maple Leafs are locked into third in the Atlantic. If the Lightning surrender the division lead to the Bruins, Tampa would face the Leafs in the first round of the playoffs. If they hold on to the lead, they would most likely face either the Philadelphia Flyers or the New Jersey Devils. The Flyers currently have 96 points. The Devils are tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets at 97 points. All three teams have one game left.

Of the four likely first round opponents, the Flyers and Devils seem to be most preferable. The Leafs are a better team than those two and Columbus is one of the hottest teams in the league over the final quarter of the season. The Jackets feature probably the best defensive pairing in the league in Seth Jones and Zach Werenski as well as one of the best forwards in the league in Artemi Panarin. Winning the division only to face Columbus would be the cruelest outcome of all the possible scenarios.

Finding out which of these scenarios will ultimately come true starts with the Lightning game in Carolina tonight. The Hurricanes have been out of playoff contention for a while. But even without much to gain by winning, they are likely to give a good effort in their final home game of the season. No team wants to head into the summer with a loss on home ice as their final memory of the season.

The Lightning will again be without Steven Stamkos, who is dealing with a lower body injury. Brayden Point has stepped up into the top line center position and performed admirably in his absence. Stamkos’ injury opens a spot in the lineup for Cory Conacher who has also been good aside from taking a couple penalties against the Sabres.

The big question will be who the starter in net will be for Tampa. With the game still having meaning, starting Andrei Vasilevskiy would be the obvious move. But he just played last night and not only played but gave up five goals. The other option is backup Louis Domingue who has been decent but is very much a backup. Neither option is particularly appealing given the stakes of the game. Ultimately, the result may come down to whether the Lightning offense can outscore whatever happens in their own zone.

Comparison Chart

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forwards:

Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

J.T. Miller - Tyler Johnson - Cory Conacher

Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Yanni Gourde

Chris Kunitz - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan

Defense:

Victor Hedman - Dan Girardi

Ryan McDonagh - Anton Stralman

Braydon Coburn - Mikhail Sergachev

Slater Koekkoek - Andrej Sustr

Jake Dotchin

Goaltenders:

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Louis Domingue

Carolina Hurricanes

Forwards:

Phil Di Giuseppe - Jordan Staal - Justin Williams

Sebastian Aho - Elias Lindholm - Teuvo Teravainen

Jeff Skinner - Derek Ryan - Lee Stempniak

Joakim Nordstrom - Nicolas Roy - Valentin Zykov

Defense:

Jaccob Slavin - Klas Dahlbeck

Noah Hanifin - Trevor Van Riemsdyk

Haydn Fleury - Roland McKeown

Goaltenders:

Cam Ward

Scott Darling