After a terrible first period and a 4-3 loss to the Flyers last Tuesday, it appeared the roof was caving in on the Red Wings’ playoff streak, but they followed it up with back-to-back wins, Michal Neuvirth got injured and all hope has been restored in Detroit. Despite a recent run of success, the Red Wings still have a long way to go before they clinch their 25th consecutive playoff berth.
The Flyers beat the Islanders in Brooklyn last night, so they’re inching closer, but thankfully we’re also chasing the Islanders at this point as well. We sit in the final Wild Card spot in the East, one point up on Philadelphia, who has a game in hand and play in the second game of a back-to-back tonight in Columbus.
Tonight will be the fourth and final regular season meeting between the Red Wings and Lightning. Tampa Bay comes in in second place in the Atlantic Division with a 41-26-5 record (87 points). Detroit leads the season series 2-1, having averaged just 2.00 goals for and only 1.67 goals against in the first three meetings with the Lightning.
THE RED WINGS
After winning back-to-back games, it is no surprise that the Red Wings will ice the same lineup against the Lightning. After picking up just one goal in his previous 11 games, Dylan Larkin, who was Saturday’s hero, has picked up one goal and two assists in his last two contests. Pavel Datsyuk also snapped a bit of a dry spell on Saturday, registering a multi-goal game for the first time since February 14th. Niklas Kronwall’s return came with two assists and Anthony Mantha is still searching for his first career NHL point—he played just 10:56 TOI on Saturday, but is averaging 13:22 TOI and three shots on goal in his first three games.
The Lightning play with 11 forwards and seven defensemen more than any other team in the NHL and with Valtteri Fippula and Ryan Callahan likely out tonight, expect them to roll with the same lineup as they used in Saturday’s 2-0 shutout win over the Coyotes. The Red Wings have done a good job containing Steven Stamkos in the first three meetings of the season, but that may be more difficult tonight, as Stamkos comes in on fire, posting four goals and two assists in his last four games. Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson are known as ‘The Triplets’ but they aren’t playing together like they were in the 2015 playoffs, but they’re still producing. Palat and Kucherov each have eight points in nine March games, followed by Johnson’s six (1G / 5A) despite being held off of the scoresheet for the last three games.
BETWEEN THE PIPES
Petr Mrazek (illness) returned to practice on Monday, but Jimmy Howard will get his third consecutive start tonight in Tampa. With Mrazek back, the Red Wings returned Jared Coreau to Grand Rapids (AHL). Mrazek was reportedly dealing with a fever of 103.1 Fahrenheit, so it’s good to see him back on the ice.
Howard stopped 23 of 26 (.885 SV%) in Saturday’s win in Florida. He has won back-to-back started while stopping 50 of 54 shots (.926 SV%) and earning the nod tonight. Howard has also gone 2-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA and .961 SV% in two starts against the Lighting this season.
The Lightning have not announced their starting netminder, but after today they don’t play again until Friday and their going for the division crown, so look for Ben Bishop to get the nod. Bishop is coming off of a 32-save shutout over Arizona and has gone 4-2-1 with a 1.72 GAA and .945 SV% in March. Despite posting a losing record (1-2-0) vs. Detroit this season, he has been hard to beat, registering a 1.72 GAA and .945 SV% in the first three meetings.
IN THE LAST MEETING…
Let’s hope for a better result tonight!
WHERE TO WATCH
Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m ET at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. You can watch it on Fox Sports Detroit. If you aren’t near a television, you can catch it on the Radio with WXYT-FM 97.1 The Ticket.
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