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Tampa Bay Lightning at Nashville Predators preview: The gauntlet continues

For the fourth game in a row, the Bolts face stiff competition.

Nashville Predators v Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning at Nashville Predators: Game 25

Time: 8:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: Bridgestone Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: NBCS

Opponent SBNation Site: On the forecheck

Preview:

The Lightning’s run of games against top competition continues tonight as they head to Nashville to take on the Predators. This follows games against the Blues, Capitals, and Hurricanes. All of those ended in one goal losses with the Lightning earning just one point along the way. They’ll be hoping to finally pick up a win in one of these games.

Despite the disappointing results, the team has played well during this stretch and has been on the right side of the shot metrics overall. They were particularly strong against the Hurricanes. They fell behind 3-0 in the first period but dominated the rest of the game before eventually losing 3-2.

The Lightning and Predators have had similar seasons in many ways. Both are in an unexpected place in the standings. Tampa sits sixth in the Atlantic while Nashville is fifth in the Central. The Bolts have the advantage of having several games in hand on their competitors due to odd early season scheduling but even so, being outside of a playoff spot in December is a surprise.

But looking beyond the standings, both teams have played relatively well. The Lightning are 10th in 5v5 expected goal share while the Predators are 6th. That suggests that both teams are likely better than their records.

The biggest drag on both teams so far this season has been goaltending. The Lightning currently sit 22nd and the Predators 27th in all situations save percentage. That alone does most of the work in explaining the difference between the strong shot metrics and the poor results. The Lightning’s string of one goal losses doesn’t help in that department either.

Tampa has a couple of questions about how they’ll approach tonight’s game. Alex Killorn is questionable, which is probably why the team recalled Cory Conacher from Syracuse earlier today. Whether or not Killorn plays, expect the Lightning to stick with their 11 forward and 7 defender lineup. The only question will be if Killorn takes his normal spot on the Cirelli line. If not, the coaches will have a choice between Conacher and Carter Verhaeghe. The latter seems to have fallen out of favor lately so if Killorn can’t go, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Conacher get the nod.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn (?) - Anthony Cirelli - Steven Stamkos

Patrick Maroon - Cedric Paquette - Yanni Gourde

Tyler Johnson - Mathieu Joseph

Cory Conacher

Carter Verhaeghe

Defense Pairings

Victor Hedman - Kevin Shattenkirk

Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak

Mikhail Sergachev - Luke Schenn

Jan Rutta

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Curtis McElhinney

Nashville Predators

Forward Lines

Filip Forsberg - Ryan Johansen - Matt Duchene

Calle Jarnkrok - Kyle Turris - Mikael Granlund

Rocco Grimaldi - Nick Bonino - Craig Smith

Austin Watson - Colton Sissons - Mathieu Olivier

Defense Pairings

Roman Josi - Ryan Ellis

Matthias Ekholm - Dante Fabbro

Dan Hamhuis - Yannick Weber

Goalies

Pekka Rinne

Juuse Saros