LIGHTNING (32-18-5) vs. WILD (29-21-7)
Tampa Bay 5-4-1; Minnesota 5-3-2
Sun Sports; AM 970 WFLA
The Tampa Bay Lightning and Minnesota Wild conclude their two-game series Tuesday in the Twin Cities at Xcel Energy Center. The first meeting between the clubs in October proved to be a battle between the pipes, as Ben Bishop earned his a career-best fifth straight win in a 3-1 victory against the Wild's Josh Harding. Harding's numbers were one of the tops in the league at the time.
The Lightning will be looking for their 17th road win of the season tonight, which would tie them with the New York Rangers for the most road wins in the Eastern Conference. If they can salvage two points Tuesday in Minnesota they would also conclude their current four-game road trip at .500.
LIGHTNING – The Lightning found the end of January to be a tough stretch as it went 3-3-2 in the last eight games of the month. Yet, they made a statement on February 1 in a 2-1 shootout win against the Habs.
Uncertainty surrounded the game with Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback being hurt in the previous outing. This led to a double recall of Syracuse Crunch netminders Cedrick Desjardins and Kristers Gudlevskis. Bishop managed to make the start and was outstanding as he stopped 28 of 29 shots faced. Desjardins will stay with the team, as Lindback's lower body injury proves to be a long term setback. Filppula did not play Saturday, but practiced with the team on Monday and could return versus Minnesota.
Amidst the setbacks on the injury front, Steven Stamkos continues to progress since reporting soreness in his surgically repaired leg last Monday. While he had earlier said he wanted to play in a few games with the Bolts before playing with Team Canada in the Olympics, he now says that is not necessary. It is unknown if Stamkos will play at all this week with Tampa Bay and he has up until 12 hours before his first contest with Team Canada to determine if he is a go or not for the Winter Games.
WILD – Losing in overtime to the San Jose Sharks and picking up a 4-2 win against a League-best Anaheim Ducks team, the Wild had high hopes for their four-game road swing after collecting three points in the first two matchups. Yet that idea quickly crumbled when they dropped a pair of games Thursday and Saturday to Central Division rival the Colorado Avalanche and the Pacific's Calgary Flames.
Minnesota currently holds one of two Wild Card spots in the Western Conference, as the Vancouver Canucks trail the Wild by two points with one game in hand in the second Wild Card spot. However the Wild must make consistency part of their game with four Western Conference teams just six points behind them in the race.
Nate Thompson's shorthanded goal and overtime goal was enough to lift the Bolts to a 2-1 win against the Canadiens Saturday afternoon. Blueliner Victor Hedman, who assisted on both markers, also has 10 points (one goal, nine assists) over his past five games. With eight points in three games last week Wild forward Zach Parise was named the NHL's First Star of the Week, for the week ending February 2, Monday. He will also captain Team USA in the upcoming 2014 Winter Games.
1/31 – Recalled G Cedrick Desjardins from the Syracuse Crunch (AHL)
1/31 – Recalled G Kristers Gudlevskis from the Syracuse Crunch (AHL)
2/1 – Reassigned G Kristers Gudlevskis to the Syracuse Crunch (AHL)
Lightning – F Valtteri Filppula (lower body, day-to-day), D Brian Lee (knee, out), G Anders Lindback (lower body, out), F Steven Stamkos (broken right tibia, out); Wild – G Josh Harding (illness, out), F Mikko Koivu (lower body, out), D Jared Spurgeon (lower body, day-to-day)
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