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Lightning return home to face Predators

by Corey Masisak

PREDATORS (16-15-3) at LIGHTNING (20-11-3)


Last 10: Nashville 4-5-1; Tampa Bay 5-3-2

Season series: This is the first game between the Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning since Oct. 27, 2011. The Predators have won each of the past three contests, and each has featured at least seven goals. They will play each other again on Feb. 27 at Bridgestone Arena.

Big story: Each team has won three of its past four games, and the Lightning could be in second place in the Atlantic Division when the games conclude Thursday night.

Team scope:

Predators: Carter Hutton had the first crack at replacing Pekka Rinne, but it might be his second shot at the job that works out for him. Hutton started eight times between Oct. 20 and Nov. 10 but not again until Dec. 10. Since then, he's made four straight starts and helped the Predators get back on track after a five-game losing skid.

The biggest key to the turnaround has been a spike in the offense. Nashville scored 10 goals in a three-game winning streak before dropping a 3-1 decision Tuesday against the Chicago Blackhawks. Three has been the magic number for Nashville. The Predators are 14-0-1 when they score at least three goals.

Nashville is being hit by a flu bug going around its dressing room. Goalie Marek Mazanec practiced Wednesday after missing the game Tuesday.

"We're trying to quarantine as many guys as we need to," coach Barry Trotz told The Tennessean. "I know the trainers have been putting the Sani Sport (sanitizer) over everything and those machines in the sanitizer room are going all the time."

Lightning: Tampa Bay traded for Rinne's former backup, Anders Lindback, but he has never been able to claim the starting job on a full-time basis. The Lightning also added Ben Bishop, and he's been a revelation this season.

Still, Bishop had lost five of his past seven decisions and been pulled early in an eighth contest before his past three starts, which have all been victories. He's currently tied for fourth among NHL goaltenders with a .934 save percentage, and is tops among United States-born goalies.

"You need your goalie to make the saves he should and maybe make a couple he shouldn't," coach Jon Cooper said after the Lightning rallied for a 3-2 shootout win against the New York Islanders on Tuesday.

Who's hot: Hutton has allowed seven goals in the past four contests, turning aside 121 of 128 shots shots against. Bishop has yielded three goals in his past three games, all victories, and has stopped 89 of 91 shots in that span.

Injury report: Hutton is playing in part because Rinne (hip) is out and Mazanec (illness) was unavailable for the game Tuesday.  … Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (lower body) will return against the Predators after missing the past six games. Stamkos (leg), Ryan Malone (angle), Tom Pyatt (collarbone), Keith Aulie (hand) and Brian Lee (knee) are out.

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