Lightning (42-24-11, 95 Points) at Wild (37-32-8, 82 Points)
Last 10: Tampa Bay (4-3-3); Minnesota (2-7-1)
Season Series: The Lightning and Wild face off for the second and final meeting of the season. The two clubs last met in the early part of the season, with the Wild earning a 4-1 victory on Nov. 14 in Tampa Bay. The season series shifts to Minnesota this afternoon, as Tampa Bay looks to knot the set at one game apiece.
The Big Story: For the first time since the 2006-07 season, the Lightning are in the playoffs following a 2-1 victory over the Penguins Thursday night at the St. Pete Times Forum. With 95 points, Tampa Bay has compiled the second-highest single-season point total in franchise history and trails Pittsburgh by three points for the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference standings. Minnesota, meanwhile, has all but had their playoff hopes end despite winning two straight games.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay begins a three-game road trip this afternoon, which is also the first half of the team’s second-to-last back-to-back series of the season. Following a four-game losing skid, the Lightning have gone on to win three straight games and clinch a playoff berth, winning most recently in a 2-1 victory over Pittsburgh Thursday night. Martin St. Louis and Steve Downie had goals for the Lightning, who enter today’s road game having earned points in five straight games away from home, and Vincent Lecavalier extended his points streak to six games with an assist. Following the game, several players from the team expressed how they were happy to be in the playoffs, but stressed how the achievement was just the beginning, and one it expects to serve as a small step in making a deep run in the playoffs.
WILD – Minnesota wraps up a brief two-game set at home today before finishing up the regular season schedule with three of the last four games on the road. Minnesota has won two straight and is trying desperately to finish the regular season on a high note after an eight-game winless streak that ended all hope of a playoff spot. The Wild still find themselves eight points behind eighth-seeded Chicago, but the club’s most recent win came Thursday in a 4-2 victory over Edmonton, where the Wild got out to an early 2-0 lead in the first period and doubled the margin just 20 minutes later. Antti Miettinen, Marek Zidlicky, Brad Staubitz and Martin Havlat each scored, while goaltender Niklas Backstrom improved to 14-0-0 in his career against the Oilers.
Who’s Hot: Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier has a six-game points streak going with a pair of goals and six assists in that span, while Martin St. Louis has picked up points in four straight games. Minnesota’s Marek Zidlicky has points in two of the past three games for the Wild and Andrew Brunette has four assists in his last three.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Randy Jones (lower body, out indefinitely); WILD – Cam Barker (back), Josh Harding (knee), Guillaume Latendresse (lower body), James Sheppard (knee) and Marco Scandella (finger).
Notable Quotable: “We had some rough years and to come back this year, we set our goal to make the playoffs, and we did. But this is just the beginning. We made it into the playoffs, and next we have the first round. We’re taking it one step at a time.” – Vincent Lecavalier, on the Lightning clinching a playoff berth for the first time in four seasons.