Season series -- This is the only meeting between these cross-conference clubs this season. They haven't played since Dec. 17, 2009, when the Wings beat the Lightning 3-0 in Detroit, and the Wings have won the last four games since a 1-1 tie in March 2004.
Big story -- For the first time since turning pro in 1983, Steve Yzerman won't be rooting for the Red Wings. Yzerman left the Wings last May to take over as vice president and general manager of the Lightning -- and has led them to the top of the Southeast Division. "Stevie Y" is the Red Wings' all-time leader in assists with 1,063. He also captured three Stanley Cups as a player, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP in 1998. After Yzerman retired in 2006, he worked for the Red Wings front office as VP president and alternate governor, earning a fourth Stanley Cup in 2008.
Red Wings -- Besides aiming to grab two points, some of the Wings players are also looking forward to facing Yzerman's Lightning for the first time.
"Every time you look at the standings and see where they're at, he's done a lot of good things down there, and that team's playing really well," Yzerman's former teammate Kris Draper told the Wings' website earlier this week. "It's certainly going to be different going into Tampa and knowing that it's Steve Yzerman's hockey team."
Lightning -- The knowledge gained while working under Detroit GM Ken Holland has certainly paid off for Yzerman and the Lightning. The Bolts are six points in front of second-place Washington in the Southeast Division and are 8-2-1 in their last 11 games, though they lost 4-3 in a shootout to Philadelphia on Tuesday.
While Yzerman has tried to put Thursday's game in perspective as just another chance to gain two points in the standings, he also wants to see how his new club with stack up against his former teammates.
"I'm not going to place too much emphasis on this game, but I'm curious to see how we play against Henrik (Zetterberg) and Pav (Datsyuk) and Nick (Lidstrom) and all these great players," Yzerman told NHL.com's Adam Kimelman on Tuesday.
Who's hot -- The Wings' Pavel Datsyuk has 2 goals and 3 assists over his last three games. … Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier is in the midst of a four-game points streak with 5 goals and an assist in that span.
Injury report -- Detroit is still without center forward Mike Modano (wrist), goalie Chris Osgood (sports hernia surgery), and forward Valtteri Filppula (knee), but the Wings say defenseman Brad Stuart (fractured jaw) is expected back in the lineup. … Lightning forward Ryan Malone (abdominal) and defenseman Mike Lundin (undisclosed) are out indefinitely, while center Nate Thompson (upper body) is listed as day-to-day.
Stat pack -- Yzerman holds the record for the longest-serving captain of any team; he spent 1,303 games wearing the "C" with the Red Wings. … Detroit has tormented the Bolts since Tampa Bay entered the NHL in 1992 -- Detroit is 23-5 with 2 ties in their 30 meetings, and the Bolts are 0-5-1 since a 1-0 victory at the St. Pete Times Forum on Jan. 7, 2003. … Osgood's absence means he won't get a chance to extend his perfect record against Tampa Bay -- he's 17-0-0 in 19 appearances.
Puck drop -- Many in the hockey world are touting this game as "The Teacher" (Holland) vs. "The Student" (Yzerman), but Yzerman refuses to get caught up in the media frenzy.
"I don't think we should make this any more than one game," Yzerman told NHL.com Tuesday. "For us, I look at it as we're trying to win every game we can and we're playing against one of the best teams in the League."