RED WINGS (26-19-12) vs. LIGHTNING (32-20-5)
Detroit 6-2-2; Tampa Bay 4-5-1
Sun Sports; AM 970 WFLA
Despite an all-time record of 8-24-2-1 against Detroit, the Lightning have fared well against the Red Wings this season. Tampa Bay picked up their second and third wins in 21 years at Joe Louis Arena, as well as winning, 2-1, at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Two of their three meetings this year have gone to overtime/shootout.
The Bolts hope to head into the Olympic break on a positive note. Currently Tampa Bay is just one point ahead of Atlantic Division rivals the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs and five points ahead of the Red Wings in the standings. Their next game after Saturday will not come until Thursday, February 27.
LIGHTNING – Thursday's 4-1 loss to the Maple Leafs marked the Lightning's second straight and fourth in five games. Three of those dropped decisions have come against division opponents, as the gap between the Bolts and the rest of the Atlantic has slowly vanished. The Boston Bruins also continue to separate themselves as they sit atop the division and seven points ahead of Tampa Bay.
With the rough patch the Lightning have hit heading into the break head coach Jon Cooper called Saturday's game a "one-game playoff" versus Detroit.
"We just need to inch ourselves a little bit farther ahead," Cooper said. "When we get back March is right around the corner and everything starts to turn up in March."
Yet the Bolts received some disappointing news and another form of adversity. Forward Valtteri Filppula fractured his right ankle and will be out three weeks. Ben Bishop is also day-to-day after leaving Thursday's game at the end of the second period with an upper body injury. In corresponding moves, goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis and forward Vladislav Namestnikov, have been recalled from the Bolts AHL affiliate the Syracuse Crunch.
RED WINGS – On the brink of being either in or out of the playoffs at this point in the season, the Red Wings have rebounded as of late and are a much healthier team this time around. Dating back to Saturday, January 18 Detroit has picked up points in eight of their last 10 contests, posting a 6-2-2 record during that span.
Forward Pavel Datsyuk, who missed 14 games with an undisclosed leg injury, also returned to the lineup in Thursday's 3-1 win against the Florida Panthers. Datsyuk played on the wing Thursday, but could be positioned in his usual spot, center, by Saturday.
Ondrej Palat continues to roll since being named the NHL's Rookie of the Month for January. Palat scored the lone tally for the Lightning on Thursday and now has 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in his past eight games.
2/7 – Recalled G Kristers Gudlevskis from the Syracuse Crunch (AHL)
2/7 – Recalled F Vladislav Namestnikov from the Syracuse Crunch (AHL)
Lightning – G Ben Bishop (upper body, day-to-day), F Valtteri Filppula (Non-displaced fracture in right ankle, out), D Brian Lee (knee, out), G Anders Lindback (lower body, out), F Steven Stamkos (broken right tibia, out); Red Wings – F Johan Franzen (concussion, out), D Jakub Kindl (lower body, out), F Stephen Weiss (sports hernia)
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