The Tampa Bay Lightning are on a three-game losing streak.
The Minnesota Wild have won three of their last five games.
The Wild were 1-0-1 against the Lightning last season.
Odds Taken from FanDuel Sportsbook.
Tampa Bay Lightning
23-11-1 (3rd in Atlantic Division)
21-13-2 (3rd in Central Division)
Nikita Kucherov (53)
Kirill Kaprizov (45)
Brayden Point (21)
Kirill Kaprizov (20)
Nikita Kucherov (40)
Kirill Kaprizov (25)
Brandon Hagel (12)
Jared Spurgeon (19)
Nikita Kucherov (3.63)
Shots (Per Game)
Kirill Kaprizov (3.89)
The Tampa Bay Lightning will travel north to face the Minnesota Wild for the first time this season. The Lightning are in third place in the Atlantic Division with 47 points. They could inch closer to second place with a win. The Wild are in third place in the Central Division with 44 points. They could move within a point of second place with a win but could fall closer to fourth with a loss.
The Lightning are not having an outstanding season, but they have a veteran squad and will make the Playoffs. Offensively, they are firing on all cylinders and averaging over 3.5 goals a game. Defensively, they are not as good, but still in the top half. Their goaltending is also not elite, but their top netminder, Andrei Vasilevskiy, can hold his own and consistently performs well.
The Lightning are led by Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Brayden Point on the offensive side. I will not go into their individual stats, but I will say this. These three players have at least 13 goals, 16 assists, and 37 points.
Andrei Vasilevksiy has maintained the Lightning’s top goaltending spot all season long. Vasilevksiy is not always dominant but is easily a top-ten netminder. His 16 wins are the sixth-most in the league, and 2.42 goals allowed per game are the tenth-lowest.
The Wild have a talented roster and will likely make the Playoffs, but I do not see them making a deep Playoff run. They have some offensive weapons and decent goaltenders, but they will need to trade for another solid center or winger to improve their scoring.
The Wild are not as offensively talented as the Lightning but have some studs in Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello. These two are having impressive seasons. Each has at least 16 goals, 24 assists, and 40 points.
Marc-Andre Fleury and Filip Gustavsson make up the Wild’s goaltending duo. Neither is elite, but they are both solid players and not to be taken lightly when in the net.
The Wild are the favorites, but I would bet on the Lightning to win. Tampa Bay is on a three-game winning streak and coming off a 5-3 win against the Arizona Cardinals. In addition, the Lightning’s offense is better, more experienced, and more consistent.
The Lightning are underdogs but will win if they depend on their veterans and draw penalties.
The Lightning are an older team, but they can use that to their advantage and use their experience as a tool. Their top two offensive players (Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos) are 29 and 32 and have been in the NHL for ten and 15 years, respectively. Tampa needs to depend on these two and let them run the offense when they are on the ice.
This season, much of the Lightning’s offense has come on the power play. Tampa is converting over 27% of their opportunities, and over 25% of their goals have come with a man advantage. Those numbers speak for themselves. The Lightning must draw penalties and create offense on the power play.
The Wild are the favorites but not by much. According to FanDuel, they only have -120 odds to win this game. However, they can improve their chances if they involve Kirill Kaprizov and play tough defense.
Kirill Kaprizov did not score in the Wild’s previous game but led the team in goals with 20. He is due for a goal in this game, so his teammates must set him up with opportunities. If they do, Kaprizov will put one in the back of the net.
The Wild are facing a Lightning team that is often electric offensively. Tampa knows how to score, which is why the Wild must play tough defense and limit the Lightning's shots. That may be the only way they slow the Tampa offense.
This is not the most surprising choice. However, there are two reasons why I chose Steven Stamkos. The first reason is consistency. Stamkos is a consistent performer and coming off a one-goal, one-assist game.
It is worth noting that Stamkos’ goal puts him two away from 500. That brings me to my second reason. Stamkos will be looking to shoot and score twice. 500 goals is a significant milestone and one that less than 50 players have ever reached. Since this milestone is so significant, I expect Stamkos to put on a show and step up his game.
Jared Spurgeon is a solid defenseman. The 33-year-old plays over 21 minutes a game and leads the Wild with 19 points. He can also provide a little offense and is coming off a one-goal, one-assist game on Saturday.
Spurgeon will likely be tasked with managing the Lightning’s best player when he is on the ice. Since that will be the case, he needs to play up to his potential and make life hard for Tampa.
What - Tampa Bay Lightning vs Minnesota Wild
Where - Xcel Energy Center, St Paul Minnesota
When - Wednesday, January 4, 9:30 PM EST
How to Watch - TNT
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Max Heering graduated from the University of Kansas Sport Management program in May 2020. Max follows and writes about the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, MLS, college football, and college basketball. In his free time, you can catch Max draining threes on the basketball court. Email: [email protected]More info on Max Heering
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