At the end of the road; Tampa Bay Lightning at Minnesota Wild preview
After spending more than a week on the road, Tampa Bay wraps up it's five game road trip with a beat up squad in Minnesota, facing a fresh Wild team.
Where: Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minnesota
When: 8 PM EDT | Tickets: Check availability
Media: (cable) | 970 AM WFLA (radio) | Twitter Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: Hockey Wilderness
If there is one thing we took from the Tampa Bay Lightning game from last night in Winnipeg, it's that this crew is hurting. Oh, yeah, they have scoring and ability - only two players, Andrej Sustr and J.T. Brown, who have played the majority of team games this season have no points - and that was on display in the 4-2 victory against the Jets... But Brown and Brett Connolly were both knocked out during the contest.
This on top of a banged-up bunch on both sides of the blue line; Alex Killorn is day-to-day, Ryan Callahan is out indefinitely, Victor Hedman is out 4-6 weeks, Nikita Kucherov was knocked out of Tuesday's game in Calgary (though he came back) and Radko Gudas returned to the lineup last night after being out of action for more than a week.
Connolly has a lower body injury; Brown has an upper body injury. According to Erik Erlendsson's recap from last night, neither player is expected to be available for action in at Xcel Energy Center tonight against the Minnesota Wild.
Erlendsson's recap has this gem from Coach Jon Cooper, summarizing the five players lost on the trip:
"The fact that we are missing all these guys is unreal,'' Cooper said. "So to roll 10 forwards . . . and then all of a sudden you look down the bench. At one point I turned to (assistant coach and former NHLer Steve Thomas) and said you better get ready to lace ‘em up because we might have to turn back the clock.''
A pair of recalls have been made by the Bolts from the Syracuse Crunch to compensate the lost bodies in the lineup for Tampa Bay; Mike Blunden and Jonathan Marchessault head to St. Paul for tonight's game. This will only be Marchessault's 3rd NHL game ever; he played two games for the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2012-13. Jon has 2 goals and 4 assists so far this season with the Syracuse Crunch. Two recalls have occurred in the system, with Syracuse recalling Jeff Costello and Danick Gauthier from the Florida Everblades of the ECHL.
Tampa Bay is playing in its ninth game of the season in this flip-side of back-to-back games, while the Minnesota Wild will be playing in only their sixth contest of the season. The Wild are 3-2-0 and in fourth place in the Central Division, where the Nashville Predators are at the top of the standings while the Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues (who are fifth and sixth in the standings, respectively) are shocking people by not being at the top of their game this season. Zach Parise is on a point-per-game pace in the early going of this season (2 goals, 3 assists) while goalie Darcy Kuemper has seemingly come out of nowhere and posted a .980 save percentage in four games this season with a .50 GAA and 3-1-0 record to go along with it. Perhaps the schedule has something to do with it? The underperforming Avalanche and the Arizona Coyotes were the opponents of record when Darcy picked up wins so far. And tonight, he'll have the benefit of a fresh team in front of him with a banged up team playing against him.
While he hasn't been named starter, expect Evgeni Nabokov between the pipes for the Lightning tonight. He's played well in his backup role so far this season, helping steal the victory against the Calgary Flames earlier in the week. Nabokov's 1-1-0 with a .936 save percentage and 1.48 GAA. Ben Bishop faced 40 shots last night, which is all the more reason to expect the capable backup to start tonight.
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