Time: 8:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: Xcel Energy Center
Opponent SBNation Site: Hockey Wilderness
Before the All-Star break, the Tampa Bay Lightning are heading to Minneapolis and Winnipeg. Their two final games prior to a one-week rest will be another set of back-to-back games, starting tonight with a game against the Minnesota Wild.
Pat Maroon’s probably won’t be in the lineup tonight. He missed the last two games after leaving the game against the Flyers. Alex Volkov took line rushes in practice and Maroon did not so expect to see Volkov get another game tonight.
Ryan McDonagh looks ready to return tonight based on the rushes in practice. He already practiced with the Bolts on Tuesday and Jon Cooper expressed a feeling that he could return before the break. With the Bolts playing two games in two days, Curtis McElhinney will likely get the first start tonight against the Wild, and Andrei Vasilevskiy will start against a better team - the Winnipeg Jets tomorrow. McElhinney was in the starter’s net in practice.
Despite the end of their winning streak and a tight shootout win over the Los Angeles Kings, the Lightning continue to be one of the better teams in the NHL. Over the last month, they’re ranked first in the league in expected goal share and shot share per Evolving-hockey.com.
The Bolts still sit in second place in the Atlantic Division. Due to winning ten games in a row and inconsistent play by the Boston Bruins, they’re just six points behind first place with two games in hand. What helped a lot is confident play by Andrei Vasilevskiy, who is second in the league with 7.34 GSAA and in the top-10 players in GSAx in the last two weeks. That strong run of play also helped Vasilevskiy to earn a spot in the All-Star Game.
Last time these two teams faced each other, the Minnesota Wild were on a 10-game point streak. That time, the Wild beat the Lightning 5-4. Now they’re last in the Central Division after losing three consecutive games and their playoffs hopes are slowly disappearing. While having a strong expected goal share, the Wild have been dragged down by their goaltending tandem, which is one of the worst in the league in save percentage.
The previous game against the Kings was the Lighting’s last game at Amalie Arena until February 4. After the All-Star break, they continue their Central Division tour with a game against the Dallas Stars before heading out west for the annual California road trip..
Tampa Bay Lightning
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Steven Stamkos - Anthony Cirelli - Tyler Johnson
Alex Volkov - Cedric Paquette - Alex Killorn
Yanni Gourde - Mitchell Stephens - Carter Verhaeghe
Pat Maroon (injured)
Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev - Kevin Shattenkirk
Luke Schenn (scratched), Braydon Coburn (scratched)
Jason Zucker - Eric Staal - Mats Zuccarello
Zach Parise - Mikko Koivu - Kevin Fiala
Marcus Foligno - Joel Eriksson Ek - Luke Kunin
Jordan Greenway -Victor Rask - Ryan Hartman
Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin - Mathew Dumba
Carson Soucy - Greg Pateryn