Time: 8:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: Bridgestone Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: Bally’s Sports Sun
Opponent SBNation Site: On the Forecheck
The Tampa Bay Lightning’s recent scoring slump ended on Thursday as the team scored more than three goals in a single game for the first time in ten games. Tonight, the Lightning await a matchup with the hottest team in the NHL right now – the Nashville Predators.
About a month ago, many people (myself included) had completely wrote the Predators out of this season’s playoff race. The team was overflowing with injuries and was sitting at the second worst place in the Central Division. However, many things have changed since the last game against the Lightning, starting with this game the Predators won 11 out of the next 13 games and jumped over their opponents in the standings, taking the last fourth playoff spot with one month left before the start of the postseason.
What is more impressive, is that the Predators injury issues haven’t gone anywhere, as the team still has 10 players on injured reserved, including their most productive player, Filip Forsberg, their top defenceman, Ryan Ellis, and Eeli Tolvanen, who has been one of the key players during their recent surge, recording 10 points in nine latest games.
The Predators offense, which was very lethargic at the early stages of the season has finally found their game. Over the previous 13-game stretch, the Predators are averaging more than three goals per game and have one of the top-10 power play units in the league, capitalizing on 25.9% of their power play opportunities. Their advanced stats have also reached positive numbers and the team currently sits at 51.06 CF% and 50.44 xGF% according to Natural Stat Trick.
Juuse Saros has also been a big part of their playoff push – he recorded two shutouts and allowed just one goals in five games during his last 10 appearances. Overall this season he has .930 SV%, 2.19 GAA and 13.64 GSAA per Evolving-hockey.com – in this last category he trails only to Andrei Vasilevskiy in the whole league.
So far the Lightning have been dominant against the Predators this season – they won five times out of six total contests, excluding their last game in March. During this season series Tampa Bay has outscored their opponent from the Music City, 26-14. Tonight’s game however will be a challenge for both sides as Nashville will try to stay hot against one of the top teams in the league and Tampa Bay is still looking for some ways to restart their offence.
The Lightning are still awaiting new information on Steven Stamkos status. The Lightning captain went limping to the locker room during the third period of their last game against the Columbus Blue Jackets and hadn’t returned to the bench. According to Jon Cooper, Stamkos was evaluated on Friday and is questionable for tonight’s game. The Lightning currently have Gemel Smith and Daniel Walcott as the only forwards on their taxi squad. Mitchell Stephens, who played three games with the Syracuse Crunch on a conditional stint is another candidate to replace Stamkos if he’s not available.
After tonight’s game, the Lightning will have a two-day pause before last game of this regular season against the Nashville Predators. This will be also the last game of their four-game road trip.
Tampa Bay Lightning Lines
(based on the previous game)
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Tyler Johnson
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Mathieu Joseph
Barclay Goodrow - Yanni Gourde - Blake Coleman
Pat Maroon - Ross Colton - Gemel Smith
Cooper confirms Stamkos is out. Smith in to replace him.
Victor Hedman - Cal Foote
Ryan McDonagh - Eric Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev - Ben Thomas
Nashville Predators Lines
(based on the previous game)
Rocco Grimaldi - Ryan Johansen - Viktor Arvidsson
Calle Jarnkrok - Mikael Granlund - Luke Kunin
Nick Cousins - Erik Haula - David Farrance
Yakov Trenin - Colton Sissons - Mathieu Olivier
Roman Josi - Ben Harpur
Mattias Ekholm - Matt Benning
Jeremy Davies - Tyler Lewington