Who: Tampa Bay Lightning (24-24-6, 54 points, sixth place, Atlantic Division) at Minnesota Wild (35-12-6, 76 points, first place, Central Division)
Puck drop: 7:10 p.m. CT
Watch: NBCSN; Wild Watch Bar locations; NHL.TV
Listen: KFAN 100.3 FM
Follow: @mnwild; Game Center
At the rink
In the midst of its longest homestand in franchise history, the Minnesota Wild will play the second of eight straight games at Xcel Energy Center when it hosts the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday.
Minnesota, which has its bye week at the end of this month, will see its schedule condense over the final five weeks of the regular season when it plays 20 games in 35 days to wrap up the year.
That puts an emphasis on the current homestand and making hay while the slate has some semblance of normalcy.
"We want to be a tough team to play against at home," said Wild forward Jason Pominville. "We gotta make sure we establish that. We distance [ourselves] and push some teams back and at the same time, send a message that it's not gonna be easy when teams come to play here."
After winning eight straight games on home ice between Nov. 23 and Dec. 29, the Wild has gone just 4-3-1 in its last eight here since New Year's Eve, including a 4-3 overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday.
The Wild outshot the Blackhawks and had the superior scoring opportunities, but never led in the game.
And while Minnesota likely won't win every game at Xcel Energy Center between now and the end of the regular season, coach Bruce Boudreau said he sees the club's play on home ice as one of the deciding factors as to whether the Wild can maintain its grip on the top spot in the Central Division standings.
"You'd certainly like to establish a great home record," Boudreau said. "If you want to end up in first place and have home ice advantage, it's important to believe that you're not going to lose at home."
Here are the projected lineups:
Nino Niederreiter - Eric Staal - Charlie Coyle
Mikael Granlund - Mikko Koivu - Jason Zucker
Zach Parise - Erik Haula - Jason Pominville
Chris Stewart - Tyler Graovac - Jordan Schroeder
Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon
Marco Scandella - Matt Dumba
Gustav Olofsson - Nate Prosser
Ondrej Palat - Vladislav Namestnikov - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Brayden Point - Jonathan Drouin
Brian Boyle - Valtteri Filppula - Erik Condra
Gabriel Dumont - Cedric Paquette - J.T. Brown
Victor Hedman - Jake Dotchin
Braydon Coburn - Anton Stralman
Jason Garrison - Andrej Sustr
Despite skating to an even .500 thus far this season, the Tampa Bay Lightning still sits near the bottom in the Eastern Conference. After losing its first two games post-All-Star, Tampa Bay came away from its West Coast swing with a 3-2 shootout victory over the Anaheim Ducks and a 5-0 shutout of the Los Angeles Kings. The Lightning is led on the scoresheet by Nikita Kucherov, whose 49 points in 47 games are 14 more than the next-closest skater's. Goaltending troubles have plagued Tampa Bay this year; Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy have split time in the crease and earned save percentages of .907 and .909, respectively.
• Lightning forward J.T. Brown hails from Burnsville and won a national championship with the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2011.
• Tampa Bay assistant coach Todd Richards spent two seasons behind the bench as Minnesota's head coach from 2009 to 2011.
Minnesota has eight players with 30 or more points this season, leading the NHL. Ten players have double-digit goal totals, which is tied with Washington for first in the League. Last season, Minnesota finished the year with 11 double-digit goal scorers and nine players with 30-plus point totals.