The Minnesota Wild are in town on a potential playoff-clinching night for the Tampa Bay Lightning, presenting the Bolts with another battle against a Central Division foe.
The Lightning are coming off one of their most solid performances out of their last handful of games, defeating the Winnipeg Jets by a 5-2 score two nights ago. Although they were facing a defensively banged up Jets team, the Bolts managed to take down the Central Division leaders decisively with contributions coming throughout the lineup.
Most notably, the Bolts’ fourth line of Mathieu Joseph, Cedric Paquette and Adam Erne provided the “gut punch factor” – those gritty, physical shifts that can help wear a team a down. Paquette is the leader when it comes to taking the grinder role, with his ability to exert hits and get underneath the opposition’s skin – he logged eight penalty minutes in the Jets matchup.
But we can’t count out Erne, who with his 6-foot-1, 214-pound frame registered four hits, tying linemate Paquette for co-leader in that statistic for the game. Erne also scored his first goal in 26 games. This fourth line will be one to watch in the matchup tonight, as the Bolts will be faced with a Wild team that is battling to stay in the playoff conversation.
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The Wild have been a surprise since they traded Charlie Coyle to the Boston Bruins in exchange for Ryan Donato before the trade deadline, going 5-0-2 since the move. Donato has two goals, five assists and is a plus-5 in those seven games. Minnesota is coming off back-to-back shootout losses to the Nashville Predators.
If the Lightning can continue the kind of play they showed two nights ago, they should have no issues shutting down this Minnesota team that has been inconsistent for the majority of the year. Tampa Bay cannot look past them as the Wild are still playing for their playoff lives.
But if there is one thing we have learned from this Lightning team, it is their ability to win games against opponents that they should be able to defeat.
Meanwhile, the Bolts could officially punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Playoffs if: the Bolts win in regulation and either Montreal or Columbus lose in regulation or the Lightning gain one point in tonight’s game and both the Canadiens and Blue Jackets lose in regulation.
Minnesota Wild at Tampa Bay Lightning
7:30pm – Amalie Arena – Network: Fox Sports Sun