LIGHTNING (42-24-11) at WILD (37-32-8)
TV: SUN (HD), KSTC (HD)
Tampa Bay 4-3-3; Minnesota 2-7-1
Second and final meeting of the season. Minnesota won 4-1 in Tampa Bay on Nov. 14 with John Madden providing a goal and an assist and Martin Havlat setting up three goals. Niklas Backstrom
stopped 38 shots.
It's a big weekend for the Lightning in the battle for home ice in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They're currently in fifth, but just three points behind the Penguins after a 2-1 win over Pittsburgh on Thursday. Both teams play Saturday, then Tampa Bay will make up the game it has in hand when it travels to Chicago to face the defending Stanley Cup champions on Sunday.
Having wrapped up its first playoff berth in four seasons, Tampa Bay is now focused on playing the best hockey it can headed into its first-round series. There's a very good chance the Lightning will be facing the Penguins, which made Thursday's win all the more meaningful. Steve Downie
and Martin St. Louis
got them off to a fast start with first-period goals and Dwayne Roloson
carried a shutout into the third, finishing with 36 saves.
"It means a lot," captain Vincent Lecavalier
said. "We had some rough years and to come back this year, we set our goal to make the playoffs, and we did."
There was a time when even the 13th-place team in the Western Conference was only a few points out of the playoffs, but the pack has gradually thinned out and Minnesota was harmed by an 0-7-1 stretch during March that increased its deficit to double digits. The Wild have won their last two games, however, including their 16th consecutive home victory over the Oilers on Thursday. Backstrom made 33 saves and 12 different players recorded a point in the 4-2 win.
"That stint we went through was really tough on all the guys mentally," forward Brad Staubitz
said. "That was something we needed as a group, a good team win like that."
St. Louis and Simon Gagne each have 4 goals and 3 assists during four-game points streaks for the Lightning, and St. Louis has taken over the team scoring lead with 92 points. Lecavalier has 2 goals and 6 assists during a six-game points streak. … Antti Miettinen has 3 goals in as many games for the Wild.
Tampa Bay defenseman Randy Jones is out indefinitely with a high ankle sprain. … Minnesota defenseman Cam Barker (back) is day-to-day, while defenseman Marco Scandella
(hand) and forward Guillaume Latendresse
(lower body) are out indefinitely.
If they won their remaining five games, the Lightning would finish with 105 points, one shy of the franchise record set in 2003-04 during their Stanley Cup season. Their 95 points already represents the second-highest single-season total. … Brent Burns set a new single-season record for a Wild defenseman Thursday, drawing an assist for his 44th point. Burns (2007-08) and Marek Zidlicky
(2009-10) shared the old record.
Lecavalier, St. Louis and several teammates will be sporting a new look by the end of the season -- on April 7, close to 30 Tampa Bay business leaders, media personalities and professional athletes will shave their heads in order to raise money to be donated to the Pediatric Cancer Foundation and the Vincent Lecavalier
Pediatric Cancer & Blood Disorders Center at All Children's Hospital. More information is available at www.pcfcutforacure.org.
, where donations can also be made.