Preds face league-best Bolts in Tuesday night matchup
by Jackson Walsh
The Nashville Predators look to extend their five-game winning streak Tuesday against the strong Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning lead a very tight race at the top of both the Eastern Conference with 65 points, best in the East and one point behind Las Vegas for the NHL’s best at a 31-12-3 record. However, they have lost their last three games going into Monday night’s contest with the Blackhawks.
The big story that has hurt the Bolts has been the recent loss of left winger Ondrej Palat, who suffered a slash in the right ankle from Minnesota’s Jared Spurgeon during a power play in Tampa’s 5-2 loss at Xcel Energy Centre Saturday night.
The other big bite from the injury bug affecting Tampa Bay from Sunday is the loss stalwart defenseman Victor Hedman, who is out 3-6 weeks with a lower body injury. The Bolts hope that Mikhail Sergachev can fill the role in Hedman’s stead. The 19-year-old is at 27 points, just shy of Hedman’s 33, with 8 goals and 19 assists.
On the other side of things, the Predators are riding strong as of late and had high-scoring forward Viktor Arvidsson back on the ice in the 4-3 victory over the Florida Panthers on home ice Saturday. The Predators sit at 28-11-6, only three points behind the Lightning in the overall league standings and narrowly behind Winnipeg in second in the Central.
This cross-conference matchup could help both teams solidify their place at the top, heating up an already tight President’s Trophy race. Andrei Vasilevskiy will look to be the man between the pipes for the Lightning. By all appearances, the Preds should stick with Rinne.