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Minnesota Wild at Tampa Bay Lightning preview

WHERE: St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
WHEN: 7:30 PM EST
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable), 620 WDAE (radio)

Another four day break comes to a close, and it’s the last substantial break in action until after the new year. ┬áThe Bolts will play 26 games between now and ┬átheir next three day break (January 3 – 5) with three back-to-back games during that stretch.

A two-game homestand opens tonight as before the Lightning head to the west coast next week.

The most recent news that stands out with the Lightning is the loss of forward Drew Miller on the waiver wire. Paul Szczechura was recalled from Norfolk of the AHL to compensate the loss. There’s no word yet if Chewie or Ryan Craig get tje start for tonight’s game but it is worthy to note that the Bolts have raided the Admirals of two of their top four leading scorers. Chewie had 14 points in 14 games with the Ads, including six goals.

The local memo going into this game centers around Antero Niittymaki. The Tribune and the Times devoted ink/bandwidth to the subject in unison. The subject matter? The label of streakiness that Frank carries with him by way of playing days in Philadelphia:

“Every goalie is streaky,” he said. “Trust me.”

Point being, starting goalies get to play through tough spells. Backups don’t always enjoy the luxury. Hence, the label.

“Everybody gets hot, everybody gets cold,” Niittymaki said. “But I’ve been pretty much backing up the last couple of years, so when you’re hot, they play you, and when you have a bad game, you sit on the bench the next two or three weeks.

“And everybody says, ‘Oh, he cooled off.’ But the thing is, he never got a chance to get back in there.”

I’ll take the streaky goalie with the league-leading .940 save percentagr, thank you very much.

The Minnesota Wild come into Times Palace tonight fresh off a victory versus the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night. They are on a two-game winning streak but are in the western conference cellar with 14 points this season (7-10-0). That, of course, is better than three teams in the Eastern Conference, but in the much more competitive west, it ties them for last with the Anaheim Ducks.

The Wild are 14th in the league on the power play with a 20% conversion rate. Their penalty kill unit is also formidable with a 85.9 kill rate (3rd in the NHL). And while goaltender Niklas Backstrom has been formidable in net (2.59 GAA and a .914 save percentage) and notched his 100th career win in the team’s last victory. Interesting enough, however, is the fact that of the entire Wild roster, only two players have a positive plus/minus (Cal Clutterbuck +3, John Scott +2). The Wild are giving up 28.3 shots on goal a night and generating the same total number of shots.

For the Lightning, Victor Hedman is cleared to play and may do just that tonight… Though there would be nothing wrong with taking extra caution with the prize defenseman and having him sit out another game.

Tampa Bay Lightning Projected Lines

(updated November 12 2009 by RawCharge subject to change)

Forward Lines:

Ryan MaloneVincent LecavalierAlex Tanguay
Stephane VeilleuxSteven Stamkos – Martin St. Louis
James WrightJeff HalpernSteve Downie
Todd FedorukZenon Konopka – Ryan Craig

Defense:

Mattias Ohlund | Matt Walker
David Hale | Andrej Meszaros
Lukas Krajicek | Kurtis Foster

Goalies

Antero Niitymaki (starter)
Mike Smith


Other Previews

Tampa Bay Lightning official preview

Joe Bolts Fan

TSN.ca’s preview

SB Nation’s Wild community – Hockey Wilderness

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