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Tampa Bay Lightning at Chicago Blackhawks preview: A potential playoff-clinching game

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A victory in any fashion will be enough

Chicago Blackhawks v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Scott Audette /NHLI via Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning at Chicago Blackhawks: GAME 49

Time: 8:00 pm ET

Location: United Center

Broadcast/Streaming: BSFL

Opponent SBNation Site: Second City Hockey

After sweeping the Columbus Blue Jackets last week, the Tampa Bay Lightning kept their gap behind the two leading teams, the Carolina Hurricanes and the Florida Panthers. While the race for first place in the Central Division is still ahead of them, the Lightning have a chance to clinch a playoff berth tonight if they beat the Blackhawks in any fashion.

Meanwhile the Blackhawks still have a theoretical chance to make playoffs, however the probability is decreasing with every day. As of yesterday, Chicago has a 2.8% chance to advance to the first round of playoffs, according to Micah Blake McCurdy’s prediction model; after yesterday’s wins by the Nashville Predators and the Dallas Stars, this percentage is even lesser. In the standings, they’re currently sitting at sixth place, five points behind Dallas and seven points behind Nashville in the race for the last playoff spot in the Central Division.

The Blackhawks management was very likely aware of this outcome and acted as a seller before the recent trade deadline. The team acquired a couple of draft picks in the upcoming draft and traded away several experienced players like Carl Soderberg or Mattias Janmark. They however managed to add some depth pieces to their lineup, including former Lightning draft pick Brett Connolly and Vinnie Hinostroza, who already played for Chicago couple of season ago.

Entering tonight’s duel, the Blackhawks have a record of 5-5-0 in the last ten games, including earning just two points in a three-game series over their main opponent for the last playoff spot – the Predators. Against the Lightning, the Blackhawks have even worse record as the Lightning have a 6-0-1 record against them, outscoring them 30-15 in seven previous game.

The Lightning’s top line bounced back in their last game against Columbus and put on a most dominant performance in the last month. Ondrej Palat scored in a second consecutive game and added two assists. Brayden Point also recorded two assists, including a helper on Victor Hedman’s overtime goal. Alex Barre-Boulet has been a great fit on the first line, earning power play time and scoring his first NHL goal in the last game.

After an extended 10-day homestand, the Lightning will make a quick stop in Chicago for the game against the Blackhawks and return to Tampa on Thursday to play against the Stars.

Tampa Bay Lightning Lines

Forwards

Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Alex Barre-Boulet

Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Tyler Johnson

Barclay Goodrow - Yanni Gourde - Blake Coleman

Patrick Maroon - Ross Colton - Mathieu Joseph

Defense

Victor Hedman - Erik Cernak

Ryan McDonagh - David Savard

Mikhail Sergachev - Luke Schenn

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Curtis McElhinney

Chicago Blackhawks Lines

(based on the previous game)

Forwards

Vinnie Hinestroza - Pius Suter - Patrick Kane

Alex DeBrincat - Kirby Dach - Brandon Hagel

Dominik Kubalik - Phillip Kurashev - Nicolas Beaudin

Brett Connolly - David Kampf - Ryan Carpenter

Defense

Wyatt Kalynuk - Connor Murphy

Duncan Keith - Adam Boqvist

Riley Stillman - Nikita Zadorov

Goaltender

Kevin Lankinen

Malcolm Subban