LIGHTNING (33-20-5) vs. PREDATORS (25-24-10)
Tampa Bay 5-5-0; Nasvhille 4-3-3
Sun Sports; AM 970 WFLA
This is the second and final meeting between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Western Conference’s Nashville Predators. In their first matchup in mid-December, the Lightning defeated Nashville 4-2 compliments of four goals from four different Bolts – Alex Killorn, Martin St. Louis, Teddy Purcell and Richard Panik – for Tampa Bay’s third straight win at the time.
Tampa Bay re-opens their season slate after the Olympic Break with a four-game road trip, their longest remaining road stretch of the season, versus the Western Conference. They will be looking for their 17th road win of the season in the first game of the trip against Nashville Thursday. The Lightning have only recorded five 17+ road win seasons in their 21-year history.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay hosted a mini training camp at RDV Sportsplex in Orlando this past weekend to prepare the Bolts for the tough 24 games that remain on the Lightning's schedule. With each game being of playoff caliber head coach Jon Cooper thought it best to get his team away from the distractions that often cause players to lose focus. With a mix of on-ice workouts and off-ice activities the Bolts feel they hold an edge as they return to action.
Czech Republic teammates, Radko Gudas and Ondrej Palat, returned to practice Monday, while Bronze Medalist, Sami Salo, and Gold Medalist, Martin St. Louis, were present for practice Wednesday. Cooper had said that Salo and St. Louis did not have to report until the plane departed for Nashville, yet the pair used the time to reintroduce themselves to North American ice and routines.
While Tuesday the Lightning learned that Steven Stamkos was not set to play on the Bolts four-game road trip after the break, they remained positive to the fact that Stamkos will be returning to the lineup sooner than later. They also are hoping to have a trio of banged up players, Matt Carle, Valtteri Filppula and Tyler Johnson, back in the lineup after missing four straight practices when the Lightning reconvened on February 19. The three have since skated in Tampa Bay's past two practices.
PREDATORS – Last week netminder Pekka Rinne re-joined Nashville for the first time since undergoing surgery for a hip infection at the end of October. He has progressed since, taking on more physical activity. Rinne will now undergo a conditioning assignment with their AHL affiliate the Milwaukee Admirals. In the time being Carter Hutton will continue to man the crease.
The Preds are opening up a five-game homestand as they look to shake off a three-game losing skid prior to the Olympic break. Captain Shea Weber will also return during Thursday's morning skate as head coach Barry Trotz asked he not come back until that point after winning a Gold Medal with Team Canada on Sunday.
Netminder Ben Bishop was the First Star of the game in the Lightning's last contest before the Olympic break versus the Detroit Red Wings, making 31 saves in a 4-2 win. He currently ranks third (tied-Semyon Varlamov) in the NHL for wins with 28. Fresh-off a Gold Medal, Martin St. Louis recorded four assists over his past five games before the Winter Games.
2/12 – Reassigned G Cedrick Desjardins to the Syracuse Crunch (AHL)
2/12 – Recalled G Kristers Gudlevskis from the Syracuse Crunch (AHL)
2/23 – Claimed D Mike Kostka off waivers from the Chicago Blackhawks
2/26 – Recalled F Vladislav Namestnikov from the Syracuse Crunch (AHL)
2/26 – Reassigned G Anders Lindback to the Syracuse Crunch (AHL)
Lightning – F Valtteri Filppula (Non-displaced fracture in right ankle, day-to-day), D Brian Lee (knee, out), G Anders Lindback (lower body, out), F Steven Stamkos (broken right tibia, out); Predators – G Pekka Rinne (hip surgery, day-to-day), Nick Spaling (lower body injury, out)
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