Time: 8:30 pm Eastern Time
Location: American Airlines Center
Broadcast/Streaming: Fox Sports Southwest, Fox Sports Sun
Opponent SBNation Site: Defending Big D
The Tampa Bay Lightning looks to shrug off yesterday’s 4-1 loss to the Nashville Predators with their third matchup against the Dallas Stars this season. Back-to-back games are never easy; especially when they include travel, but the shortened schedule puts a strain on every team this season. This will be the Lightning’s second game in a stretch that sees them play 11 games in 20 days (with only one two-day break in the next two weeks).
The positive outlook rests on the fact that Tampa Bay is 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. The, slightly, bad news comes from the realization the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers are keeping up with the Lightning in the standings. Currently, the Panthers hold the top spot in the division with 42 points while the Hurricanes and Lightning hold second and third with 41 and 40 points respectively. The margin of error is slim between these three teams, and an extended slump could be all that is needed for one of them to take a large enough lead to secure the division.
Tampa Bay’s offense sputtered yesterday against Nashville, but not due to their own doing (at least not entirely). Pekka Rinne turned back the clock to beat father time for one day and put forth a spectacular 38-save performance for Nashville, but Tampa Bay controlled large swaths of that game. Aside from a dismal first 15 minutes to start the game, the Lightning dictated the pace but doomed themselves with untimely errors and poor decision making.
Whatever ailed them in the slow start against Nashville has to be forgotten as a struggling Dallas team looks for any win to jump-start their season. The Stars remain the sole team Tampa Bay has yet to lose to this season, and the only team to not score a goal against them either. It’s highly unlikely Dallas’ offense will remain dormant as the season series continues, especially with the return of Alexander Radulov to the lineup.
Dallas might be 3-5-2 in their last 10 games, but their underlying numbers look strong. Over that 10 game stretch, they’ve controlled 56% of the shot attempts at 5v5, out-chanced their opponents 227-156, generated more high danger chances 90-51, and have a strong xGF% of 58%. The wins haven’t come as often as they’d like, but Dallas is no slouch. They’re not a team the Lightning can take lightly.
The Lightning’s underlying numbers look solid as well over their last 10. 52% CF, out-chancing their opposition 221-191, and an xGF% of 53%. However, the Lightning hasn’t done enough at limiting high danger chances against; they’re 74-77 during this stretch. Allowing 77 high danger chances over their last 10 games isn’t terrible, it’s middle of the pack, but 74 high danger chances for is ranked 20th over the same time span. The Lightning isn’t as defensively stout as last season, but they’ve been bailed out by the stellar play of Andrei Vasilevskiy. That safety net has caused the team to loosen up in their own zone and it’s cost them goals and even games in certain situations. It needs to be tightened up if they want to keep pace with Carolina and Florida.
It’ll be interesting to see if recent taxi squad call-up Taylor Raddysh makes his NHL debut tonight, but until today’s media availability we won’t have a good read on that situation. So far, the rookies this season have impressed. Alex Barre-Boulet didn’t look out of place during his call-up, Ross Colton was surprisingly effective in limited minutes, and Cal Foote is getting more comfortable in every game.
Let’s Go Bolts.
Tampa Bay Lightning Lines
(based on the previous game)
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Anthony Cirelli
Alex Killorn - Yanni Gourde - Steven Stamkos
Barclay Goodrow - Tyler Johnson - Blake Coleman
Pat Maroon - Mathieu Joseph - Alex Volkov
Victor Hedman - Cal Foote
Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev - Jan Rutta
Dallas Stars Lines
Jamie Benn - Jason Dickinson - Denis Gurianov
Jason Robertson - Roope Hintz - Alexander Radulov
Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau
Joel Kiviranta - Rhett Gardner - Joe Pavelski
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Jamie Oleksiak - Miro Heiskanen
Joel Hanley - Andrej Sekera