Florida Panthers @ Tampa Bay Lightning Preview

(Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images) /

The Tampa Bay Lightning (37-18-4) are back at home tonight welcoming in the Florida Panthers (29-26-6) for a 7:00 p.m. ET puck drop. FanDuel has the Lightning at a slight -166 favorite on the money line with an over/under all the way up to seven.

The Bolts are coming off of a back-to-back in which the biggest weakness of the team was certainly highlighted: defense. On Saturday, Tampa Bay posted a 3-0 shutout victory over the Detroit Red Wings thanks to the stellar play of Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Lightning defense allowed Detroit to muster 45 shots on net, helping display an otherworldly performance out of Vasilevskiy to not let a single shot go through. Tampa Bay fell apart at the seams on Sunday, however, as a quick trip to Pittsburgh saw the Penguins scorch the Lightning 7-3. Six goals were given up in the second period alone to Pittsburgh, as this definitely looked like an area in need of improvement before the playoffs begin.

Hopefully, Tampa Bay will look to make a trade before the NHL trade deadline on Friday, March 3rd to help bolster its blue line. So far, the Lightning made a move to acquire forward Tanner Jeannot from the Nashville Predators in exchange for defensemen Cal Foote and 5 draft picks. The powerful forward will hope make an immediate impact for the Bolts in the playoff push and beyond with his playmaking ability and penalty-kill expertise.

Florida, like many of the teams the Lightning will face down the stretch and already have, are competing in the wild card race for a spot in the playoffs. It’s been a rocky month so far with a mix of wins and losses all over the board for the Panthers however. Last Monday, Florida overcame one of the worst teams in the league, the Anaheim Ducks, to secure a 4-3 victory in overtime, but fell 3-1 at home against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday after an extended rest period. This in-state rivalry always seems to bring out the intensity for the Panthers though, especially after a dominating 7-1 win over the Bolts back on February 6th. Matthew Tkachuk and Carter Verhaeghe both had two goals that night as Florida finally got one over on the Lightning this season, bringing the regular season series to 2-1.

INJURIES: Lightning D Erik Cernak should be ready to return from a two-game suspension tonight.

Panthers RW Givani Smith and Patric Hornqvist both remain on IR along with G Spencer Knight. Centers Aleksander Barkov and Sam Bennett are likely not expected to play in tonight’s game.

Odds (Courtesy of FanDuel): TBL -166 ML/FLA +138 ML, O 7 +106/U 7 -130

Where to watch: Bally Sports Sun, NHL Power Play, ESPN+

Where to listen: Lightning Radio 24/7, 102.5 MHz-FM

Amalie Arena, Tampa, FL

February 28, 2023, 7:00 p.m. ET

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