With one of their top offensive players still recovering from an injury and another's status unknown, the Tampa Bay Lightning might have to rely on defense to have a successful run before the Olympic break.
Fortunately for the Lightning, Ben Bishop was able to return quickly from an upper-body ailment and might be in net against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night.
Steven Stamkos is continuing to work his way back from a broken right tibia and hopes to return in time to play for Canada in the Olympics. Whether he plays in an upcoming two-game homestand could determine his status for Sochi, and he will reportedly undergo X-rays when the team returns from Minnesota.
"I don't feel where I need to be in order to play in a game yet, but it's getting there," he said after practice Friday. "It has gotten better. There's less and less pain every time I get on the ice, but there's a little discomfort."
The Lightning (32-18-5) also lost second-leading scorer Valtteri Filppula to a lower-body injury in a 5-3 loss in Ottawa on Thursday, and Bishop was forced to leave that game after a collision with teammate Nikita Kucherov.
While Filppula sat out Saturday, Bishop returned to make 28 saves in a 2-1 overtime victory over Montreal. Nate Thompson scored both goals after netting three in his first 53 games this season for Tampa Bay, which is 1-2-0 on a four-game trip.
"We have done a good job of stopping the bleeding," coach Jon Cooper said. "The last time we lost three in a row was back in November. For us to lose three in a row would be rare, and the guys knew it. So we dig deep when times get tough. That (win) was a big one."
With backup Anders Lindback dealing with a lower-body injury, Bishop will likely start against the Wild (29-21-7).
Minnesota scored 11 goals in the final three games of a four-game trip, though it gave up nine in back-to-back losses to close that stretch. The Wild rallied from a 3-1 deficit against Calgary on Saturday with Keith Ballard scoring the tying goal with 4:05 left in regulation, but the Flames won 4-3 in overtime.
Minnesota also fell behind 4-1 after two periods against Colorado on Thursday before making the final score more respectable in a 5-4 defeat.
"In the third period the last two nights, we're tight on teams, we're skating better, we're playing five guys on the forecheck. We're a good team when we do that," forward Dany Heatley said. "The first two periods of the last two games, it's kind of wait and see, and like that, we're not going to have success."
In its attempt at a fourth straight home win, Minnesota will try for a stronger finish than it had in Tampa on Oct. 17. The Wild gave up two goals in the final 5:04 of a 3-1 loss with Stamkos scoring the tiebreaking goal.
Tampa Bay is 2-5-0 in its seven all-time visits to Minnesota.