Predators Visit Lightning in Potential Stanley Cup Preview

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, October 31, 2018 2:57 PM UTC

Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018 2:57 PM UTC

No question the game of the night in the NHL Thursday is a possible Stanley Cup preview as Nashville makes its only regular-season visit to Tampa Bay.

Nashville (9-3-0) at Tampa Bay (8-2-1)Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ETFree NHL Pick: UnderBest Line Offered: SportsBetting

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For some reason, the NHL had just one game scheduled on Wednesday, but the league comes back in full force on Thursday with 13 games. The marquee matchup is Nashville making its only visit of the season to Tampa Bay – although it’s quite possible the Predators could head back to Tampa in June for the Stanley Cup Finals.

Last year, both these clubs were atop their respective conference in points just as they are currently. Alas, the Predators lost in seven games in the Western semifinals to Winnipeg and Tampa Bay lost in seven in the East Finals to eventual champion Washington – blowing a 3-2 series lead. Currently, the Preds are +450 favorites to win the West at Bovada and Tampa is a +450 second-favorite to Toronto (+350) in the East.

The Bolts and Preds split last year. In Nashville, Tampa won 4-3 in overtime. Yanni Gourde scored 1:45 into OT. Steven Stamkos had tied it at 17:48 of the third on a one-timer from the circle. In Tampa late in the season, the Predators won 4-1. Flip Forsberg had two goals and an assist. Stamkos left after one period due to injury. One of Nashville’s top offensive players, winger Viktor Arvidsson, was out with an undisclosed lower-body injury.

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PUT THIS PLAY IN A MUSEUM. 🤯#NJDvsTBL | #GoBolts pic.twitter.com/N6I02RLM65

— tampa bay frightening 🎃 (@TBLightning) October 31, 2018
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Will Rinne Return for Preds?

Nashville has been without reigning Vezina Trophy winner Pekka Rinne since Oct. 19 with an undisclosed injury. That said, he could play here because he rejoined the team in practice this week and was officially activated from IR on Wednesday. Backup Juuse Saros has been very good in his place.

The Preds are off a 4-1 home win over Vegas in which Saros made 23 saves to be named the No. 2 star. He’s now 6-2-0 with a 2.50 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. Ryan Hartman scored twice in the second period just 57 seconds apart to give Nashville a 2-1 lead it wouldn’t relinquish vs. the Knights. It was Hartman’s first multi-goal game since March 21, 2017 with Chicago.

Tampa Bay also is missing a key piece in reigning Norris Trophy winner Victor Hedman. He hasn’t played since Oct. 26 due to an upper-body injury and won’t Thursday. He had 63 points and was plus-32 last year; this season in nine games, four points and minus-3. Winger Ondrej Palat (lower body) also is out.

The Bolts were embarrassed at Arizona 7-1 on Saturday but bounced back with an 8-3 home win over New Jersey on Tuesday. Brayden Point had a goal and four assists, while Braydon Coburn added two goals and Nikita Kucherov two goals and an assist. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 27 shots and is 6-1-1 with a 1.98 GAA. Tampa actually trailed 2-0 barely five minutes in.

As usual, Tampa Bay is among the NHL’s scoring leaders (3.6 gpg) and also leads the NHL on the penalty kill (93.2 percent). Complete team.

  • Predators are 6-0 in their last 6 vs. Eastern Conference.
  • Lightning are 42-17 in their last 59 home games.
  • Under is 6-2 in Lightning last 8 home games.
  • Under is 5-1 in Predators last 6 when their opponent scores 5 goals or more in previous game.

Great matchup between Top 10 offenses and defenses – but defense usually wins the day in the NHL. Bolts are down a couple of key offensive guys (Hedman is huge on PP), and Rinne is looking like he will return. We like ‘under’ for a Thursday NHL pick. Secondary lean to home side.

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