Dec 19, 2013
Last updated: December 19, 2013 at 10:39 am
Nashville Predators (16-15-3) at Tampa Bay Lightning (20-11-3)
Gametime: 6:30pm CT / 7:30pm ET
Radio: 102.5 The Game
Nashville Predators - Pekka Rinne (hip)
Tampa Bay Lightning - Keith Aulie (upper body), Brian Lee (knee), Ryan Malone (lower body), Tom Pyatt (broken collarbone), Steven Stamkos (broken right tibia)
Projected Goaltending Matchup
Carter Hutton, 7-4-1, 0 SO, 0.911Sv%, 2.79GAA
Anders Lindback, 2-6-1, 0 SO, 0.883Sv%, 3.12GAA
Keep an eye on...
Nashville Predators -
Gabriel Bourque - After being the most recent healthy scratch for the Predators, expect a strong return game from Bourque, who has already put up four goals and eight assists in his 29 games this season.
Tampa Bay Lightning -
Valtteri Filppula - Coming alive as of late, the former Detroit Red Wings forward was signed by the Lightning in the offseason to add to their scoring punch. Ranking third in scoring for Tampa Bay, and registering two goals and an assist in his previous two games, Filppula is getting hotter right when the Lightning need him.
Nashville Predators -
Bringing a three-game winning streak into a meeting against Chicago Tuesday night, Nashville had a chance to keep things rolling and stretch their streak to a season-high four games. However, miscues and penalties were the name of the game as the Predators were downed 3-1 by the Blackhawks and saw their winning streak snapped. Colin Wilson seemed to be the focus of a next-morning tirade by head coach Barry Trotz after being the primary factor behind two “Too Many Men” penalties on Nashville, including being the odd-man out at practice as well. If a message is being sent to Wilson, who is the Predators fifth-highest scorer, is it the right one?
Still being led in scoring by veteran David Legwand with 25 points (6g, 19a), the Predators have benefited from his recent five points in his last four games (1g, 4a) and continue to have a positive record whenever he contributes, as they’ve gone 12-3-1 when he registers a point. Shea Weber (8g, 9a) and Patric Hornqvist (7g, 10a) have seen their stock continue to rise as well, with their 17 points each being second most in the lineup.
Suffering his first loss in his past four games, Carter Hutton saw his three-game winning streak snapped by the Blackhawks after winning the NHL’s Third Star of the Week last week. With a record of 7-4-1 and very decent stats to go along with it, Hutton should continue to be in net for the Predators unless things really begin to go downhill.
Tampa Bay Lightning -
With the injuries that Tampa Bay has received, you’d expect them to have a record similar or worse than the Nashville Predators. Yet, that’s just not the case. Things haven’t been the greatest for the Lightning, but they’ve been able to cope since the loss of star forward Steven Stamkos and with the rest of the scattered injuries to their system. Winners of three of their previous four, two coming from the shootout, Tampa Bay has had stellar goaltending from starting netminder Ben Bishop, who was acquired from the Ottawa Senators at last season’s trade deadline for Cory Conacher. The real question is: can they maintain their current pace in the tough Atlantic Division until Stamkos and company return?
With Stamkos being injured, the Lightning have seen their offense come in waves from their captain Martin St. Louis and off-season acquisition Valtteri Filppula. St. Louis (13g, 19a) and Filppula (12g, 11a) pace Tampa Bay’s deadly offense with a host of others scratching their way up the leaderboards. Tyler Johnson, Alex Killord, and Teddy Purcell all have ten assists each and trail second-leading scorer Filppula by just a handful of points.
At the beginning of the season, it wasn’t a question of how many games each would start, but who would be getting the bulk of the work between the pipes for the Lightning. Unfortunately, for Anders Lindback fans, it’s been Ben Bishop that has saved the day for Tampa Bay. Coming in with an 18-5-2 record in his 25 games this season, Bishop ranks in the Top 5 in the NHL in wins, shutouts, save percentage, and goals against average, making him one of the top goaltenders in the entire league. Will it continue? For the Lightning, they can only hope it does.
Last time out...
Mike Fisher scored two goals and added an assist, Pekka Rinne stopped 29 shots, and the Predators edged the Lightning 5-3 in Nashville on October 27th, 2011.
One interesting fact...
Nashville has one three straight match-ups against the Lightning, dating back to 2009. In their three wins, they’ve averaged a little over 5 goals in each game.
Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua