at Tampa Bay Lightning, Amalie Arena, 6 p.m. Thursday
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Sarah McLellan's preview:
Opening bell: This is the start of another three-game, four-day stretch for the Wild, who last played Monday when they shut out the Islanders 5-0 and G Marc-Andre Fleury passed Patrick Roy for the second-most wins (552) in NHL history. The Lightning have been idle even longer; Tampa Bay (22-17-5) has been off since a 5-1 romp over Anaheim on Saturday. The Wild (18-20-5) lost to the Lightning in these team's only other meeting this season, a 4-1 final Jan. 4 at Xcel Energy Center.
Watch him: Lightning LW Steven Stamkos is coming off one of his best games of the season. The Tampa Bay captain scored twice and picked up an assist vs. Anaheim, the first time he's had multiple goals in a game since he tallied four Dec. 14 against Edmonton. Stamkos, who's played his entire 1,000-plus game NHL career with the Lightning, is in the final season of his contract, but General Manager Julien BriseBois announced earlier this week that Tampa Bay won't be trading Stamkos.
Injuries: Wild RW Vinni Lettieri (lower body) and D Jared Spurgeon (lower body). Lightning D Erik Cernak (upper body), D Haydn Fleury (upper body), LW Tanner Jeannot (lower body) and Mikhail Sergachev (lower body).
Forecast: Will the Lightning be rusty or recharged? The answer to that question might not matter if the Wild can duplicate last game's blueprint. They snapped a four-game losing streak with one of their most complete efforts of the season vs. the Islanders. From airtight goaltending and defending to an opportunistic offense — they scored twice on the power play and once shorthanded — the Wild showed how effective they can be when they play to their strengths. If they can bring that style to Tampa Bay, they should be much more competitive in the rematch.
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