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Predators begin homestand against Lightning

by Mike G. Morreale

LIGHTNING (33-20-5) at PREDATORS (25-24-10)


Last 10: Tampa Bay 5-5-0; Nashville 4-3-3

Season series: This is the second of two games between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Nashville Predators. The Lightning scored a 4-2 victory in the previous meeting on Dec. 19 when Anders Lindback made 28 saves.

Big story: Tampa Bay Lightning captain Martin St. Louis returned to practice on Wednesday for the first time since winning a gold medal for Canada at the 2014 Sochi Olympics on Sunday. St. Louis told reporters he has had discussions with general manager Steve Yzerman regarding his future with the team, but did not elaborate. Newsday's Arthur Staple cited three different NHL sources who confirmed St. Louis requested a trade last month.

St. Louis was asked about the rumors on Wednesday after practice.

"I've had talks with Steve about my future with the team and I'll leave it at that," St. Louis told The Tampa Tribune.

The Lightning's next home game is March 6. With the NHL Trade Deadline set one day earlier, there's a possibility St. Louis may not play another game in a Lightning jersey at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Team Scope:

Lightning: Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos has targeted March 6 against the Buffalo Sabres for his anticipated return to the lineup. He has sat out the past three months after crashing into the goal post and breaking his right tibia at TD Garden in Boston on Nov. 11. In 17 games prior to the injury, Stamkos had 14 goals and 23 points. He had a titanium rod inserted into his leg a day after the incident.

Stamkos underwent an X-ray on Monday and learned at that time he was not cleared to play during the team's four-game road trip that begins in Nashville. He has missed 41 games this season. The Tampa Bay Times reported that forwards Valtteri Filppula (ankle) and Tyler Johnson (foot) and defenseman Matt Carle (foot) are all expected to return to the lineup against the Predators.

Predators: This is the start of a five-game homestand for Nashville. Coach Barry Trotz said goalie Carter Hutton would remain the starter while Pekka Rinne undergoes a conditioning assignment with the team's American Hockey League affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals. Hutton is 13-9-4 with a 2.87 goals-against average and .904 save percentage in 30 games.

Rinne, who last week joined his teammates at practice for the first time since undergoing surgery for a hip infection on Oct. 24, is scheduled to play for the Admirals on Friday against the Iowa Wild.

"I'm just going to try and focus on trying to get my own game back, but so far I feel real comfortable," Rinne said. "I'm happy how things have gone in practices and how things have gone so far. I'm actually a little bit surprised it's been going so well, but like I said, it's still a process.

"For sure, I feel like I'm really close to the game shape and now it's just a final couple of games before I jump on the ice with the Nashville team."

Who's hot: Johnson has five goals and 11 points in the past 11 games for the Lightning. … Predators defenseman Roman Josi has four goals and 10 points in the past 11 games.

Injury report: Lindback (ankle) is questionable. … Nashville forward Nick Spaling (lower body) is doubtful. Rinne (hip) is on an AHL conditioning assignment.

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