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Lightning (39-29-10) at Bruins (43-30-6) Preview

This is the big one. Okay, it's actually gotten more complicated, but it's still very big.

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Just The Facts:

When: 7 PM EST

Where: TD Garden, Boston, MA

Who: the Tampa Bay Lightning - 39-29-10, 88 points in 78 games, 5th in the Atlantic, 9th in the East vs. Your Boston Bruins - 40-30-6, 92 points in 79 games, 4th in the Atlantic, 8th in the East.

Where To Watch: NESN (believe Jack & Brick'll have the game in the local market), NBCSN, TVAS

Where To Listen: 98.5 The Sports Hub

Opposing SBNation Site: Raw Charge

Game Notes:

What's at stake, you ask? Well, you can probably do the math yourself, but just in case; Tampa's playing for their playoff lives. The Bruins need wins to lock up their own playoff berth. It's very likely Tuukka Rask (.912 & SOs in 62 appearances) in the home net, with Andrei Vasilevskiy (.915 in 40) for the visitors (we'll update if there are changes).

  • The Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-2 last night, vaulting them back over the Bruins in point total with 93. The Ottawa Senators fell 5-4 in the SO on the second half of a back-to-back to the Detroit Red Wings. So the Bruins are down a point to the former, and tied with the latter. Both teams have a game in hand on the Bruins.
  • Tampa is four points back of the Bruins and the Sens, and--like the Sens and Leafs--have played 78 games. A loss in regulation doesn't eliminate them, but it gets them about as close to elimination as a team can be without being matematically out of it.
  • Since Ottawa's slumped a bit, only get Erik Karlsson back from an injury last night, the Bruins and Lightning are technically no longer mortal enemies since there exist scenarios where both teams could make it. But where, I ask you, is the fun in that? There should be a playoff atmosphere at TD Garden for this game, regardless. Basically what this boils down to is three spots for four Atlantic teams--Toronto, Ottawa, Boston, and Tampa.
  • The Bruins host Ottawa and Washington in their last two games of the regular season. Tampa has a road back-to-back against Toronto and Montreal, followed by a home Sunday game against Buffalo. Again, the Lightning need this one pretty hard, and I'd expect them to come out flying.
  • It's not guaranteed that the Lightning will have Steven Stamkos back tomorrow - there were rumblings about a possible return, but nothing's confirmed as this goes to press. In Stamkos's absence, Nikita Kucherov has upped his game even further to the tune of 38-43-81. Viktor Hedman (15-52-67) has had another Norris caliber year, anchoring the blueline along with Anton Stralman (who's been banged up for stretches, but appears to be healthy now). Then there's Ondrej Palat (17-32-49) and Tyler Johnson (19-26-45) and other familiar faces like Alex Killorn, as well as up-and-comers like Brayden Point, who's chipped in 34 points as a 21-year-old. Look, really, never take this team lightly -- sans Ben Bishop and Stamkos, the core of the team that's made hockey's Final 4 two years in a row is here, and games like their 6-3 victory over the Bruins the last time these two teams met shows how dangerous they are even in a relatively down year.
  • That said, they also played a back-to-back on the weekend, losing in OT to Montreal and beating Dallas, so both teams will be playing their third game in four days. Hockey!

We'll see you all for the game tonight. Should be a good one.