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Tampa Bay Lightning at Detroit Red Wings preview: The present versus the past

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Tampa faces the team whose wins record they’re chasing.

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Lightning at Detroit Red Wings: Game 71

Time: 7:30 pm Eastern Time

Location: Little Caesars Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: SunS, FSDT

Opponent SBNation Site: Wingin’ it in Motown

Preview:

The Lightning and Red Wings play for the second time in five days tonight at the House of Affordable Pizza. The Bolts won the previous meeting 3-2. The Wings were the second team to be officially eliminated from the playoffs and the Lightning were the first to clinch. That fact does as good a job as any of showing that these two teams are at opposite points in their competitive cycles.

For Tampa, this is a good chance to earn two points in what is an exceptionally difficult closing stretch to the season. After tonight, eight of the team’s remaining eleven games will be against the Capitals, Bruins, Hurricanes, Leafs, and Blues. Those are five of the NHL’s best teams.

The Lightning have already likely locked in the top overall spot in the standings barring a complete collapse but they’re still chasing history and have an outside chance at tying the all-time wins record set by the Wings in 95-96. The Bolts would need nine wins in their final twelve games, which seems unlikely given the competition. But if they’re going to do it, they almost certainly need a win tonight.

Tamps is still dealing with some injuries on the blue line. Jan Rutta played again last game in place of Anton Stralman and Dan Girardi. Stralman returned to practice yesterday meaning that he could be ready but Girardi did not. If Stralman is back, he would bump Rutta. But if not, Rutta would get his third game with the Bolts since being acquired in a trade for Slater Koekkoek.

The Wings have little to play for aside from pride and protecting their franchise record. Even if this team is a far cry from the one that dominated during the mid to late 90s, they’ll still want to make it more difficult for the Lightning to break one of their records.

Comparison chart:

On paper, the gap between the teams looks exactly as big as it does on the ice. The Lightning are good in every area. The Wings are bad in every area except goaltending. But even that has been an issue lately.

Division matchups are never easy and the familiarity between Lightning head coach Jon Cooper and Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill means that both teams will have the other well scouted. And while no game at this point in the season is worth investing in too much, this is one the Lightning should be able to win.

If they play to their ability, they’ll put the Wings on the defensive and control the tempo. Puck bounces and hockey weirdness can always produce unexpected outcomes but if the Bolts do what they’re supposed to do, they’ll minimize those risks and have agood chance at leaving with both points.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

Tyler Johnson - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat - Steven Stamkos - J.T. Miller

Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Mathieu Joseph

Adam Erne - Cedric Paquette - Yanni Gourde

Scratched: Ryan Callahan, Danick Martel

Defense Pairings

Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman

Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak

Braydon Coburn - Mikhail Sergachev

Injured: Dan Girardi

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Louis Domingue

Detroit Red Wings

Forward Lines

Tyler Bertuzzi - Dylan Larkin - Anthony Mantha

Thomas Vanek - Andreas Athanasiou - Filip Zadina

Justin Abdelkader - Luke Glendening - Darren Helm

Christoffer Ehn - Jacob de la Rose - Michael Rasmussen

Defense Pairings

Danny DeKeyser - Filip Hronek

Jonathan Ericsson - Trevor Daley

Niklas Kronwall - Madison Bowey

Goalies

Jimmy Howard

Jonathan Bernier