NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Minnesota Wild host the Tampa Bay Lightning at 8:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.
The Minnesota Wild are coming off an overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night, but they’re still in a good spot when it comes to maintaining the lead in the Central Division. The Wild enter tonight’s game with a five-point advantage over the ‘Hawks and they still own two games in hand.
The Wild have been one of the top teams all season, and they’ve been especially dominant against teams in the East and specifically the Atlantic Division. Minnesota has 13 wins in 19 games against the Eastern Conference and they’re an incredible 9-1 against the Atlantic.
Like every team, the schedule has been tough for the Wild recently. They just came back from a Western Canadian road trip that saw them win in Edmonton, lose in Calgary, win in Vancouver and win in Winnipeg. After the game against the Jets on Tuesday, they flew back home right away and were forced to play the next night against Chicago, which is why Bruce Boudreau gave his team a day off yesterday.
The Wild have received countless stellar performances from Devan Dubnyk throughout the season, but their ability to generate offense throughout their lineup has also been really impressive. In Tuesday’s game against Winnipeg, they were led by Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter and Jason Pominville (he had four points in that one). On Wednesday, it was Erik Haula who scored a late goal to send the game to overtime after Jared Spurgeon and Zach Parise had already scored.
It’s nearly impossible for the opposition to figure out which line will be rolling on a night-to-night basis because each one can contribute. It’ll be up to the Tampa Bay Lightning to figure out who to stop in tonight’s game.
Even though the Bolts are in a three-way tie in the basement of the Eastern Conference, they have to be feeling better about their game. For the first time since mid-December, the Bolts have won back-to-back games, which is an encouraging sign for their playoff hopes.
“What’s the cliche? Every game is a playoff game,” head coach Jon Cooper told the Tampa Bay Times after Tuesday’s win over the Kings. “We’ve got to keep building each game and I truly believe we have. And I truly believe now guys are getting rewarded.”
The Lightning are a manageable six points behind Boston for the final Wild Card spot in the East and they even have two games in hand on the Bruins. The problem, is that they have to leap over six other teams to get there.
Tonight’s game won’t be an easy one, as the Wild have been the most consistent team in the league in 2016-17. To make matters worse, the Lightning aren’t even sure they’ll have center Tyler Johnson in their lineup. He missed Thursday’s practice because of an undisclosed injury. If he can’t go, it’ll make the task that much more difficult.