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Wednesday Night Rivalry

5 Reasons to watch Lightning-Bruins

Tampa Bay's Stamkos, Kucherov 1-2 in scoring race; Marchand may return for Boston

by John Kreiser @jkreiser7713 / NHL.com Managing Editor

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins will play for the first time this season when they meet at TD Garden in the Wednesday Night Rivalry game (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV).

Tampa Bay (17-5-2) has raced to the top of the NHL standings largely on the strength of its offense (3.63 goals per game), led by Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, who are 1-2 in the League scoring race, and the goaltending of Andrei Vasilevskiy, who's No. 1 in the NHL with 16 wins, including 2-0 at the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday.

Injuries have plagued the Bruins (10-8-4), who have have been up and down this season but are 4-1-0 in their past five games and pushing to get into the top three in the Atlantic Division.

Here are 5 reasons to tune in:

 

Stamkos

It hasn't taken long for Stamkos to show just how much he was missed last season after he went down with a season-ending knee injury in mid-November. Stamkos has been almost unstoppable since opening night, and he enters this game leading the NHL with 36 points (10 goals, 26 assists). He's on pace to finish with 123 points, 26 more than his NHL-best 97 in 2011-12, when he scored 60 goals.

Video: DAL@TBL: Stamkos pots scorching PPG on one-timer

 

Kucherov

A lot of Stamkos' assists have come on Kucherov's 17 goals. After finishing tied for second in the NHL with 40 goals last season, Kucherov has taken his game to the next level -- he's on pace to easily surpass 50. The line of Kucherov (35 points), Stamkos and Vladislav Namestnikov (23 points; 10 goals, 13 assists) has been dominant at times.

Video: TBL@LAK: Kucherov scores beauty on a breakaway

 

Goaltending

The Lightning have ridden Vasilevskiy to the top of the League standings, starting him in 20 of 24 games. Boston coach Bruce Cassidy is going with Tuukka Rask, who has been Boston's No. 1 goalie since 2012-13 and won the Vezina Trophy as the best goaltender in the NHL in 2013-14. But Rask has spent much of the first quarter of this season on the bench, watching Anton Khudobin play. Khudobin, a career backup, has gotten most of the playing time during the past three weeks and is making the most of his opportunity. He's 7-0-2 with a 2.22 goals-against average and .932 save percentage. Rask is 3-8-2 with a 2.91 GAA and .899 save percentage.

 

Injury ins and outs for Bruins

The Bruins have been riddled with injuries to some of their most important players, but two of their key forwards could return against the Lightning. Brad Marchand has missed the past six games with an undisclosed injury but shed his non-contact jersey at practice Tuesday and will play. Marchand had 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) before he was injured. David Backes, coming off colon surgery on Nov. 2, will return about four weeks ahead of schedule. But the Bruins will be without center David Krejci and rookie forward Jake DeBrusk. Krejci has played the past five games but reaggravated the upper-body injury that caused him to miss 11 games Oct. 21-Nov. 15. DeBrusk (upper body) will become the 14th Boston player to miss time with an injury this season.

 

Mikhail Sergachev

Tampa Bay's 19-year-old rookie defenseman continues to play like a veteran. Sergachev leads Lightning defensemen with six goals after scoring his fourth game-winner of the season against the Sabres. Sergachev, acquired from the Montreal Canadiens in the Jonathan Drouin trade June 15, has 16 points in 24 games despite averaging 14:13 of ice time. He's an emerging offensive force with a big shot who is just scratching the surface of the talent that made him the No. 9 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.

Video: TBL@BUF: Sergachev nets scorching one-timer for PPG

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