TAMPA – It will be best against best when the Tampa Bay Lightning play the Anaheim Ducks at Amalie Arena on Sunday.
The Lightning (33-16-5) are in a tie with the Detroit Red Wings for first place in the Eastern Conference with 71 points and the Ducks (34-12-7) lead the NHL with 75.
It will be unfamiliar territory for the Lightning. They are playing the second half of back-to-back games at home after a 4-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.
"It's a tough turnaround which is good because it doesn't necessary give us time to dwell on [Saturday]," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "But the downside is that arguably the best team in the League is coming in here well rested. Usually we're the team that benefits from the back-to-backs because our opponent played the Florida Panthers the night before. This time we're at a little bit of a disadvantage."
Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf should return to the ice after missing the first two games of the team's five-game road trip with a lower-body injury.
"The guys have stepped up and played really well," Getzlaf said. "I think we've had a good road trip and hopefully we can continue to play well and stay healthy. I think if I feel like I'm ready to go [Sunday] I will be on the ice."
Though Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau will be happy to have his top scorer back in the lineup, he expects the Lightning to be a dangerous opponent, especially coming off of a loss.
"They are a team that can score in bunches," Boudreau said. "Last time we were here we lost 5-1 so it can get out of hand quickly. They have a lot of guys…nine guys that have scored 10 goals or more so you can't just focus on [Steven] Stamkos."
To counter the Lightning's scoring attack, the Ducks will start goalie Frederik Andersen after giving him the night off in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Washington Capitals on Friday. Andersen made 44 saves in a 5-2 win against the Nashville Predators on Thursday.
"We are playing pretty well as a group," Boudreau said. "It doesn't always look pretty but we are getting the job done and we also know that we can get better. We've had some games where we lean on [Andersen] a lot and he has been up for the challenge."
Here are the projected lineups:
Kyle Palmieri – Ryan Getzlaf – Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano – Ryan Kesler – Jakob Silfverberg
Matt Beleskey – Rickard Rakell – Devante Smith-Pelly
Patrick Maroon – Nate Thompson – Tim Jackman
Cam Fowler – Eric Brewer
Hampus Lindholm – Francois Beauchemin
Clayton Stoner – Sami Vatanen
Scratched: Rene Bourque, Ben Lovejoy
Valtteri Filppula - Steven Stamkos - Ryan Callahan
Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson- Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Cedric Paquette - Jonathan Drouin
Brenden Morrow - Brian Boyle- Brett Connolly
Victor Hedman - Andrej Sustr
Nikita Nesterov - Anton Stralman
Mark Barberio - Luke Witkowski
Scratched: J.T. Brown
Injured: Jason Garrison (lower body), Radko Gudas (knee surgery), Matthew Carle (abdominal surgery)
Status report: Getzlaf skated in an optional practice Saturday and took part in line rushes during the morning skate Sunday but is still listed as a game-time decision. …Vasilevskiy was scheduled to start Sunday despite playing two periods Saturday after Bishop was pulled.
Who's hot: Kucherov had scored goals in the past two games. …Kelser scored a goal and had an assist in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Washington Capitals on Friday.