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Five keys for Red Wings vs. Lightning Game 1

Goaltending, matchups among factors to watch

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

TAMPA -- The Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning begin their Eastern Conference First Round series on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; CBC, NBCSN, TVA Sports, FS-D, FS-F). Here are five keys for Game 1:

1. Goaltending: It's always key, but it will be especially so in this series, with each team struggling to score. Ben Bishop defeated the Red Wings in the first round last year and took the Lightning to the Stanley Cup Final, and he likely will be a Vezina Trophy finalist again this season. Petr Mrazek started for the Red Wings in this series last season, but Jimmy Howard is back in net.


2. Marquee matchup: The Red Wings will reunite Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg on their top line, and that should draw the Lightning's top defensive assignment. The Lightning must keep Datsyuk from working his magic and Zetterberg from building confidence after finishing the regular season with one goal in 24 games.

"They do seem to provide a spark," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said.

Video: MIN@DET: Tatar banks in Nyquist's no-look feed

3. Secondary matchups: If Datsyuk and Zetterberg draw the Lightning's top defensive assignment, that means Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and Co. will face second and third lines and defensive pairings. Nyquist and Tatar were cold down the stretch; the Lightning don't want them to warm up.

"I understand what [Datsyuk and Zetterberg will] draw, and that probably lessens the load on some of the other guys," Blashill said.

4. Find space and make the most of it: This series was tight last season, when the Lightning were the highest-scoring team in the NHL. So expect nothing different now that the Lightning have not scored at the same pace and have lost captain Steven Stamkos to a blood clot.

"It's like playing a game in a closet," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.

Video: First Round Preview: Lightning vs Red Wings

5. Keep perspective: Everyone's pumped for Game 1, but it's only Game 1.

"Have we even won a Game 1?" Cooper asked.

The Lightning have won Game 1 once in five tries under Cooper. Twice last year, they lost Game 1 but won the series, including the first round against the Red Wings.

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