Updated at 3:33 PM: The Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning will face off this evening (7:30 PM EST on FSD/FS Sun/97.1 FM) after engaging in a morning skate where news was hard to come by.
It appears that Jimmy Howard and Andrei Vasilevskiy will oppose each other in goal, and it sounds like Andreas Athanasiou will miss the game due to an illness (per the Free Press’s Helene St. James), but at almost 3 in the afternoon, all that’s out there is “Bolts stuff.”
The Lightning spoke with TampaBayLightning.com’s Jacob Lynn about heading home for an extended stretch after spending most of the first two thirds of the season on the road, as well as tonight’s match-up with Detroit…
It’s been a tough stretch for the Bolts who have seen their lead in the Atlantic Division slip to a point over the surging Bruins. The Lightning will get a brief reprieve from the road, however, beginning a quick two-game homestand tonight against Detroit.
Tampa Bay hopes the excitement of a rivalry game coupled with a supportive crowd can help improve their play.
“…I think coming back against Detroit is going to be a very important, emotional game,” forward Yanni Gourde said. “That’s the kind of emotion we need all around all year long and I think that it’s going to be really good to play these guys tonight.”
After Saturday though, the Lightning head back out on the road with stops in Washington, Ottawa and Montreal coming next week.
Following that trip, the Lightning finally see the schedule swing back in their favor.
Stretching from the last week of February through the middle of March, the Bolts will play 10 of 11 games at AMALIE Arena.
“It’s going to be amazing,” Gourde said. “Our fans are the best and I can’t wait to have that stretch at home [so] we can settle down a little bit and play in our building in front of our fans.”
The Lightning’s website also posted a game preview video…
As well as Yanni Gourde and Ryan Callahan:
The Game: The Tampa Bay Lightning will try to avoid their third consecutive loss against an Atlantic Division opponent when they host the Detroit Red Wings at Amalie Arena on Thursday.
The Lightning are coming off back-to-back losses at the Toronto Maple Leafs (4-3 on Monday) and at the Buffalo Sabres (5-3 on Tuesday) after going 7-2-0 in their previous nine games. Tampa Bay still leads the division with an NHL-best 79 points, one point ahead of the Boston Bruins and four points ahead of the Maple Leafs.
Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov leads the NHL in scoring with 72 points (30 goals, 42 assists).
The Red Wings seek their third straight win following a three-game losing streak (0-2-1). Detroit is eight points behind the Carolina Hurricanes for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.
The Red Wings are 0-9-1 in their past 10 regular-season games against Tampa Bay.
Players to watch: Red Wings center Frans Nielsen has seven points (two goals, five assists) in a five-game point streak. Lightning forward Yanni Gourde has 10 points (five goals, five assists) in a seven-game point streak.
They said it: “The last three games I think we’ve played really well. The last game against Tampa [Bay], I thought we deserved better results than we got, but we played a good game. We just have to be good on the forecheck, not have any turnovers or overshoot the puck.” — Red Wings forward Tomas Tatar
“Have we played the smartest hockey of late? Maybe not. But that Toronto game, we easily could have gotten points. Buffalo, we put ourselves in a tough situation with penalties. … Now we’ve put a little pressure on ourselves to get points in this two-game homestand, and we’ve got to do it.” — Lightning coach Jon Cooper
The Bolts’ lineup may be in some flux this evening, but Caley Chelios posted Tampa Bay’s morning skate lines…
Forward lines from #Bolts morning skates:
— Caley Chelios (@CaleyChelios) February 15, 2018
And, interestingly, the Red Wings have Athanasiou listed as in their probable lineup:
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) February 15, 2018
The Free Press’s Helene St. James did post a morning skate video, but she asked Dylan Larkin, Martin Frk, Darren Helm, David Booth, Justin Abdelkader, Luke Witkowski and Xavier Ouellet not about the team they’ve lost 10 straight times against in the Lightning, but instead, the Olympic alternate sport they’d pick for themselves:
When you’re going through a tough stretch, often times it’s best to go back to what has worked in the past. And that’s what the Lightning is doing tonight against the Red Wings, with the top line of Vladislav Namestnikov, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov reuniting at the morning skate.
The trio dominated the league in the first couple months of the season, but had been split up for a good part of the last month as the Lightning tried to find its way (9-8-1) since Jan. 4. They were put back together late in Tuesday’s loss in Buffalo, the Lightning losing back-to-back games as its first-place lead shrunk to one point over Boston.
Tampa Bay is in the midst of a stretch of 18 road games out of 24, and is 11-8-1 so far. Soon that will flip, after next week’s three-game trip, the Lightning will have 10 of 11 at home.
“It’s been hard,” coach Jon Cooper said. “We’ve played the most road games in the league by quite a bit. Sometimes it’s going to come back around. One thing that weighs on you a little bit is we’re a distance travel team, so an extra hour on flights and it can wear on you.
“We still like where we are in the standings. Would we love to win every single game? We would. But it’s 82 games and guys are giving us everything they have. Have we played the smartest hockey as of late? Probably not. But in the end, guys have been giving it their best, and that’s all you want.”
It helps the Lightning will face Detroit for two reasons. Tampa Bay has won the last 10 regular season meetings with the Red Wings. And these always tend to be emotional, physical games, with both teams not liking each other.
“It always seems like a little game within the game everytime we play them,” Cooper said. “It should amp up the emotional side of things.”