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Tampa Bay Lightning at Detroit Red Wings preview: The Bolts need to win both games this weekend

First place is still on target

Detroit Red Wings v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images

Detroit Red Wings at Tampa Bay Lightning: GAME 51

Time: 3:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: Little Caesars Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: SN1, BSFL

Opponent SBNation Site: Winging it in Motown

Having won four games in a row, the Tampa Bay Lightning are still keeping pace with the divisional leader Carolina Hurricanes. With six games left in regular season the Lightning are three points behind the Hurricanes. Given the amount of remaining games, first place seems like an elusive target, but not an unachievable one. To stay in the race, the Lightning need to earn the maximum number of points against the Detroit Red Wings this weekend.

The Red Wings were amongst the first teams eliminated from the playoffs, but surprisingly they’re still avoiding the last spot in the division as the Columbus Blue Jackets managed to have just two victories over the last month.

Many things have changed in Detroit since their last meeting with the Lightning. The Red Wings have traded one of their top-scorers Anthony Mantha to the Washington Capitals in exchange for Jakub Vrana and Richard Panik. They also traded Patrick Nemeth to the Colorado Avalanche and helped the Lightning to acquire David Savard by retaining half of his salary. Jakub Vrana’s numbers in Detroit look impressive as a Czech forward is point-per-game since his trade, however more than half of his points were recorded in a single game, when Vrana scored four goals against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Over the last month the Red Wings lost four players, including their captain and most productive player Dylan Larkin, which allowed some of their younger players as Joe Veleno and Evgeny Svechnikov to slide into the lineup. Due to multiple injuries, the Red Wings also have the highest density of former Lightning players in the top-six in the NHL, as Valtteri Filpulla, Adam Erne and Vladislav Namestnikov have all been playing top-six minutes recently. All of those players have already scored at least once against Tampa Bay this season.

The last meeting between these teams ended in a 1-5 debacle for the Lightning. Both Christopher Gibson and Ben Thomas made their debuts for the Lightning in this game and Gibson ended up allowing four goals on 17 shots. Entering tonight’s matchup the Lightning have a 4-2-0 record against the Red Wings this season.

Before tonight’s game the Lightning sent rookie defenseman Cal Foote to the Syracuse Crunch. Since the Lightning acquired Savard, Foote played just once, replacing Savard himself, who was out with minor injury last Tuesday. Otherwise, the Lightning coaching staff preferred more experienced Luke Schenn over him, who has been solid playing on the third pair with Mikhail Sergachev. Foote will be given more ice-time and bigger role in Syracuse.

On the same day the Lightning recalled Ben Thomas and Spencer Martin to the taxi squad.

Tonight’s game is a first leg of back-to-back in Detroit. Both games are afternoon games and will be played at 3:00 pm. After this weekend, the Lightning are returning to Amalie Arena for two final home games of this regular season against the Dallas 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

Detroit Red Wings Lines

Forwards

Jakub Vrana - Michael Rasmussen - Valtteri Filpulla

Adam Erne - Vladislav Namestnikov - Filip Zadina

Richard Panik - Joe Veleno - Sam Gagner

Darren Helm - Luke Glendening - Evgeny Svechnikov

Defense

Dennis Cholowski - Filip Hronek

Marc Staal - Troy Stetcher

Danny DeKeyser - Gustav Lindstrom

Goalies

Jonathan Bernier

Thomas Greiss