Tampa Bay Lightning Battle For Position Against New Jersey Devils

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Tampa Bay Lightning are headed to battle with the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center in Jersey as the two teams fight for position in the Eastern Conference.

Despite the struggles Tampa Bay Lightning has been dealing with over the course of the last few weeks, the Lightning has continued to find ways to win, bringing home the victory in their last four games. Tomorrow night, the Tampa Bay Lightning look to extend that streak to five as they charge into the Prudential Center to take on captain Andy Greene and the New Jersey Devils.

Tomorrow night’s matchup will be the first of three times these two teams will come together in the center of the ice. The Lightning and the Devils will meet again on April 2nd in the Lightning’s final home game of the season, and once again on April 7th, as the Tampa Bay Lightning’s penultimate game of the regular season.

While some people may look at tomorrow night’s game as just another encounter between two Eastern Conference teams, the game actually means much more to these two teams. Both the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New Jersey Devils are battling for position in the Eastern Conference and have aspirations of playing for the Stanley Cup when the playoffs kick off in April.

Right now, the Tampa Bay Lightning are a mere three points away from the Atlantic Division-leading Florida Panthers. If the Tampa Bay Lightning can find a way to overcome the Panthers, this would give them a few ride into the post season. At the same time, the New Jersey Devils are in a heated battle with the Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins for the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Needless to say, the two available points distributed to tomorrow night’s winner could be a game-changer for both teams. This means that both the Bolts and the Devils will have to bring their “A” game to the ice and be prepared to lay it all on the line for the world to see.

Unfortunately for the Devils, the Tampa Bay Lightning will have an ever-so-slight advantage over them as the Bolts make their way into the Prudential Center. You see, later on tonight the New Jersey Devils are headed to the Nationwide Arena to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets. After the game the team is going to have to hop on a plane home and get ready to face the Lightning less than 24 hours later.

Right now, there are two players on the New Jersey Devils the Tampa Bay Lightning will most certainly need to be mindful of as they head into the Prudential Center tomorrow night. The first, and probably most important, of the aforementioned players is Devils right wing Kyle Palmieri. Palmieri currently leads the Devils in goals with 23. When you add in his 17 assists so far this season, you get a grand total of 40 points.

Another player the Tampa Bay Lightning should be mindful of is Devils right wing Lee Stempniak. Stempniak is a skilled playmaker who currently leads the Devils in assists and overall points. So far this season, Stempniak has scored 16 goals and 25 assists for a total of 41 points.

On the other side of the ice, it is Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov who is leading the way for the Tampa Bay Lightning. The 22-year-old Russian forward has scored 24 goals and 25 assists so far this season for a grand total of 49 points. These numbers put Kucherov in first place on the team in overall points.

Unfortunately for the Lightning, it is unknown as to whether Nikita Kucherov will be able to make the trip with the Tampa Bay Lightning. As most of you know, Kucherov has been listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury. The good news is, according to Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, Kucherov was doing line rushes with his linemates Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat at practice today. This could be a good sign for Friday.

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Right behind Nikita Kucherov is Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. Stamkos leads the team in goals scored with 26. Add in his 21 assists so far and you get a grand total of 47 points, which is good enough for the second place spot on the team in overall points. Steven Stamkos has really seemed to get his groove back lately. Stamkos has scored a goal in each of the Lightning’s last four games.

One aspect of the game the team really needs to concentrate on against the Devils is their special teams. Prior to Tuesday night’s game at the Amalie Arena against the Arizona Coyotes, the Tampa Bay Lightning had allowed a shorthanded goal in each of their last three games. The Lightning made some progress in this area on Tuesday night when Lightning center Cedric Paquette found his way to the back of the net with a shorthanded penalty shot against Coyotes netminder Louis Domingue.

The Tampa Bay Lightning cannot continue to give up opportunities to their opponents and fail to capitalize on their own chances if the Lightning has any hope of making their way into the postseason and once again battling for the Stanley Cup. The team knows full well what needs to happen in order to be successful. All there is left to do now is put one skate in front of the other and make it happen.

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What do you think is the biggest key to a Tampa Bay Lightning victory tonight? Do you think we’ll see Nikita Kucherov make his return to the lineup? Let us know what you think in the comments below.