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Tampa Bay Lightning at Chicago Blackhawks preview: Who will take the three-game series in Chicago?

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The first two games were very entertaining

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Chicago Blackhawks Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Lightning at Chicago Blackhawks: GAME 23

Time: 2:30 pm ET

Location: United Center

Broadcast/Streaming: NBCSN, TVAS, SN1, SNW

Opponent SBNation Site: Second City Hockey

After the two opening games of the season, when the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Chicago Blackhawks twice while outscoring their opponent 10-3, few people expected that the remaining part of their season series would be very competitive. However the Blackhawks have really stepped up since the start of the season, mostly because of their goaltending and league-leading power play. In turn their short three-games series with the Lightning at the start of March has turned out to be very close and entertaining.

Both previous games went on basically the same scenario: one of the teams raced ahead to a two-goal lead early in the game, while the opposite side, after attempting a comeback, tied the score and sent the game into overtime, achieving the victory after the end of regulation time (the Lightning in OT in the first game and the Blackhawks in the shootout the next). What is also interesting, both games were won by the team that was supposed to lose according to advanced stats. The Blackhawks led the Lightning in both Corsi-For percentage and expected goal share in their overtime loss and the Lightning dominated the opponent in the second game, controlling the 75.05% of shots at 5-on-5, but eventually were defeated in shootout.

The Blackhawks also managed to end two of the Lightning’s streaks. The first one was Andrei Vasilevskiy’s scoreless streak, which ended on Wednesday’s night after almost 208 minutes without allowing a goal and the second one was the Lightning’s streak without a goal against on penalty kill, which was interrupted by Alex DeBrincat’s power goal on Friday. The Lightning did continue their point streak, scoring at least one point in each game since February 22.

Both teams are expected to play in basically the same combinations as during the last contest, besides the return of their main goaltenders, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Kevin Lankinen, who were resting during the second leg of back-to-back series on Friday. Chicago finally placed forward Dylan Strome on injured reserve retroactive to Feb. 19 and recalled defensemen Wyatt Kalynuk and Lucas Carlsson from the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs to their taxi squad.

As for the Lightning, Jan Rutta is still missing with a lower body injury, however according to Jon Cooper he’s expected to be back soon. In his and previously Erik Cernak’s absences their minutes were mostly redistributed between Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh and Mikhail Sergachev. Hedman led the team in TOI in both previous games, playing 27 and 29 minutes in this two games respectively.

After tonight’s game, the Lightning continue their road trip with two games against the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

Projected Lines

Tampa Bay Lightning Lines

(based on the previous game and assumption that Jan Rutta will be out)

Forwards

Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Anthony Cirelli

Alex Killorn - Yanni Gourde - Steven Stamkos

Barclay Goodrow - Tyler Johnson - Blake Coleman

Pat Maroon - Mathieu Joseph - Alex Volkov

Defense

Victor Hedman - Cal Foote

Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak

Mikhail Sergachev - Luke Schenn

Goalies

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Curtis McElhinney

Chicago Blackhawks Lines

(based on the previous game)

Forwards

Alex DeBrincat - Pius Suter - Patrick Kane

Mattias Janmark - Carl Soderberg - Phillip Kurashev

Dominik Kubalik - David Kampf - Brandon Hagel

Matthew Highmore - Lucas Wallmark - Ryan Carpenter

Defense

Duncan Keith - Ian Mitchell

Calvin De Haan - Adam Boqvist

Nikita Zadorov - Connor Murphy

Goaltender

Kevin Lankinen

Malcolm Subban