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Red Wings, Lightning ready for Game 7 challenge

by Brian Hunter /



Best-of-7 series is tied 3-3

Home ice hasn't provided much of an advantage in the Eastern Conference First Round series between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Detroit Red Wings. But the Lightning get one more chance to show their NHL-best 32 home wins during the regular season weren't a mirage.

The Lightning host the Red Wings in Game 7 at Amalie Arena on Wednesday, with the winner advancing to play the Atlantic Division champion Montreal Canadiens.

Detroit will be without defensemen Niklas Kronwall, who was suspended one game Tuesday by the NHL Department of Player Safety for charging against Tampa Bay forward Nikita Kucherov late in the second period of Game 6. They'll also have to play without Marek Zidlicky, who is injured. Their absence means Jakub Kindl and rookie Alexey Marchenko will go into the lineup.

In avoiding elimination with a 5-2 win Monday at Joe Louis Arena, the Lightning continued a trend that has seen the road team win each of the past three games and four of six in the series.

"Our big victory in Game 6 means nothing if we don't pull out Game 7," Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said after practice Tuesday.

The Lightning last played a Game 7 in the 2011 Eastern Conference Final, when they lost 1-0 to the Boston Bruins. Their most recent Game 7 on home ice was a 2-1 win against the Calgary Flames in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final for the franchise's lone championship.

The Red Wings played Game 7 on the road in back-to-back rounds in 2013, defeating the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 in the Western Conference Quarterfinals and losing 3-2 in overtime to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in the conference semifinals.

"It's a Game 7, we're excited to play and we've played well in their building," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "We made mistakes [Monday] that led to giving up three goals, and we can't afford to do those things again. We gave them space. They were able to show skill, and we turned the puck over in the wrong spots."

The teams have alternated wins throughout the series, with Detroit taking leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 only to see Tampa Bay answer each time.

"I think it shows how evenly matched these two teams are," Lightning forward Ryan Callahan said. "There hasn't been carryover from game to game, and it's clear that they have a good team and we have a good team. Either team can win anywhere."

One common denominator in Tampa Bay's wins has been the heroics of forward Tyler Johnson. Each victory by the Lightning has featured a two-goal performance by the 24-year-old, whose six goals tie him for the lead in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Forward Alex Killorn is the only other Lightning with more than one goal.

"They have a lot of good players, but he's obviously a real good player," Babcock said. "He is competitive offensively and defensively. He plays the full 200 feet. He's definitely someone that can help them win in several ways."

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, a 43-goal scorer during the regular season, has been limited to three assists. His goal drought is seven games stretching back to the regular season, and he's been held without a goal in 14 of his past 16 overall.

"I want to be a guy that can step up and chip in," Stamkos said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. "Obviously [Wednesday] would be a good time for that."

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