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Game Day: Preds vs. Lightning

by Thomas Willis & Brooks Bratten / Nashville Predators

(45-21-8) Nashville Predators vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (46-21-7)
  6:30 P.M. | Amalie Arena
TV: FS-TN | Radio: 102.5 The Game | Nissan Pregame: 6 P.M.

The Nashville Predators are set to continue their stretch against teams currently in playoff position as they travel to Tampa Bay to face the Lightning this evening.

Nashville is coming off of a 3-2 overtime win against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday and things won't get any easier tonight. The Bolts own the best home record in the NHL, having won 30 games in their own barn this season.

“I would expect the game would be a little bit similar to [the Montreal game],” Predators Head Coach Peter Laviolette said following Wednesday's practice. “[The Lightning are] a good skating team. They’ve got really good depth…It’ll be a good challenge, but that’s why they sit where they sit in the standings, they’ve got a good lineup, they play a real fast game and it’ll be a good contest.”

After missing Tuesday's game, forwards Matt Cullen and Viktor Stalberg practiced with the team on Wednesday and made the trip to Tampa Bay. Forwards Viktor Arvidsson and Kevin Fiala are also traveling with the team for the time being.

Forward James Neal, who skated with the team on Wednesday for the first time since a March 12 game against San Jose, did not make the trip and remains day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

Pekka Rinne stopped 27 of 29 Montreal shots on Tuesday to tally his 39th win of the season, a mark that is second overall in the League. With the win, Rinne is four victories shy of tying the Preds franchise record, and Rinne’s career record, for wins in a season of 43.

Filip Forsberg became the first Preds rookie to score multiple overtime goals in a single season with his game-winning goal less than two minutes into OT against Montreal. The goal, which came on the power play, gives Forsberg six game-winning goals this season, a mark that leads Nashville and is tied for 11th in the NHL. His six power-play goals this season are two shy of tying Adam Hall for most by a rookie in franchise history (8, 2002-03).

The Ostervalla, Sweden, native is tied for the team lead in points this season (22g-34a-56pts) and is second in the category among all League rookies. Among first-year players, Forsberg leads in power-play points (tied, 19), power-play assists (13) and shots on goal (217) while averaging 17:14 time on ice, second most among rookie forwards.

Mike Ribeiro recorded his 11th multi-point game of the season on Tuesday against Montreal, tallying assists on Ryan Ellis’ game-tying goal and Filip Forsberg’s game winner. The Montreal native, who has 14 points (3g-11a) in 11 career games against the Habs (the team that drafted him), moved back into a tie for the Preds’ top spot in points this season (13g-43a-56pts).

In addition to being tied for the team lead in points, Ribeiro leads team forwards in average time on ice (18:39) and is tied for the top spot in points-per-game (.76). Ribeiro’s 43 assists are first on the Preds and tied for 11th overall in the NHL.

Tied for the Tampa Bay lead with 67 points apiece, Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson pose quite the offensive threat for the Bolts. Trailing only Washington's Alex Ovechkin, who the Preds will see Saturday, Stamkos has potted 40 goals this season, while Johnson has 41 helpers on the campaign. Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan have also eclipsed the 50-point mark this season.

Ben Bishop has backstopped the Lightning to a number of victories, going 36-11-4 with a 2.31 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage. The Bolts have won four in a row and are 8-1-1 in their last 10 outings.

The Preds hit the road for their two final games against Eastern Conference opponents beginning on Thursday against the Lightning and culminating in Saturday afternoon’s game in Washington, D.C. The two road games against Eastern Conference opponents complete a stint of four consecutive games against cross-conference foes and a stretch where Nashville will face 11 Eastern Conference teams in 19 games.

On the season, Nashville is 18-10-2 against the East and 10-4-1 against Atlantic Division teams.

Tonight's game marks just the third time since Oct. 24, 2010, that the Predators have played in Tampa and the 20th all-time meeting between the two franchises. Since their first meeting on Jan. 21, 1999, the Preds have gone 8-8-(2)-1 against the Lightning overall and 2-4-(2)-0 as the visiting team.

Predators Game Day Video:

What to Watch for: Brent and Willy's Breakdown


Morning Skate Update:

The Preds morning skate saw full participation from the players that made the trip to Tampa Bay. Forwards James Neal (upper-body) and Eric Nystrom (lower-body) remained in Nashville as they continue to recover from injury.

The club's forward lines featured an interesting twist as two of them saw four skaters participate. Matt Cullen and Viktor Stalberg missed the Preds contest on Tuesday against Montreal and are labeled as day-to-day while trying to return from injury.

Nashville Morning Skate Lines:

Forwards:

Forsberg - Ribeiro - Smith

Wilson - Fisher - Fiala - Santorelli

Arvidsson - Jarnkrok - Stalberg

Beck - Gaustad - Bourque - Cullen

Defensemen:

Josi - Weber

Ekholm - Jones

Ellis - Franson

Extra: Bartley - Volchenkov

Goaltenders:

Pekka Rinne*

Carter Hutton

*Probable Starter

Quotables:

Mike Ribeiro on goalies Pekka Rinne and Ben Bishop:

"They're both really big guys. There's not a lot of space on those guys. Peks is great, he gives a chance to win every night, and I think it's the same for them. For us, it'll be about how many shots we can throw at the net and maybe get a bounce and score a goal. With the talented goalies sometimes you have to keep it simple."

Seth Jones on facing the team with the best home record in the NHL:

"We know [Tampa Bay is] very good at home. They're efficient and they score a lot of goals. It's going to be our job to play good defense and try to eliminate their transition offense as much as possible...We've got to manage the puck well tonight. If we turn it over, then they're off to the races."

Peter Laviolette on what he expects to see in tonight's game:

"I think it's going to be a fast game today. The [Lightning] have good depth on their forward lines. Their third line looks likes a first line. Their third line is really tough to play against and it's still a really good checking line as well. There's two good goaltenders and defenses that are mobile and can move the puck. I think Tampa's balance in skill is really why they're one of the top scoring teams in the League. We expect it to be a fast game like ours against Montreal and with this being a tough place to play, we'll have to be ready."

Shot of the Day:

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