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Nashville Predators vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Preview: Bring the Thunder

The Predators face the Lightning tonight. Will they be able to hold their own against a powerful Tampa Bay team, or will injuries and illness get the best of our Predators?

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The Predators square off against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday evening. The Lightning just faced off against Chicago on Monday, so they’re on the second half of a back-to-back. Will the Preds see an exhausted Lightning, or will we see the team that’s been dominating the NHL standings during the first half of the season?

The Nashville Predators

The Predators have been handling injuries and illness as of late. We saw Viktor Arvidsson back on the ice on Saturday, but Filip Forsberg remains injured.

Mattias Ekholm was out Saturday with an illness, and he and P.K. Subban did not skate in Monday’s practice. Subban had a maintenance day. Hopefully the flu bug is NOT going around the locker room.

This is the final game of a homestead that has seen the Predators win each game with a combination of stellar goaltending and crucial goal-scoring. Kevin Fiala, Ryan Ellis, and P.K. Subban have been on fire recently, while Colton Sissons, Miikka Salomaki, and Austin Watson couldn’t buy a goal if they tried....and they have most certainly been threatening lately.

Personally, I’ve been fairly impressed with the play of Nick Bonino as of late. The line roulette that put Bonino with Fiala and Calle Jarnkrok may have been a winning roll. Their line was dominant on Saturday. Jarnkrok posted three assists. Bonino had a goal and two assists, and Fiala had two goals.

With the Central Division tightly contested per usual, the Predators need every two points they can get in order to keep pace with the Winnipeg Jets.

The Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning absolutely dominated the storylines during the first half of this season. A healthy Steven Stamkos combined with Viktor Hedman, Ondrej Palat, and Nikita Kucherov blasted through nearly every opponent with ease. The Lightning are 31-12-3 as of Monday, and they have stayed at the top of nearly every power ranking from October to today.

The most impressive Lightning player might be 23-year-old goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. He’s posted fantastic numbers this season. He has a .927 SVC this season.

Backing up Vasilevskiy while Peter Budaj recovers from a lower body injury is seasoned veteran Louis Domingue. Per The Tennessean’s Adam Vingan, it looks like Vasilevskiy will start Monday against Chicago. The Preds could see Domingue on Tuesday evening.

Once Budaj returns from injury, there’s not a definite answer for whether Domingue will stay with the Lightning organization or look for another goaltending spot elsewhere in the League.

Kucherov and Stamkos lead the team in points with 61 and 54 respectively. Rookie defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, acquired from the Montreal Canadiens in the trade that sent Jonathan Drouin to Montreal, has a respectable 27 points.

This team has spent the first half of the season firing on all cylinders and essentially dominating the League. They’ve cooled off recently, dropping their last three games to Minnesota, Calgary, and Vegas.

Ondrej Palat is sidelined with a lower body injury sustained last week. The Lightning recalled two AHL forwards to bolster their forward lines in response.

Norris Trophy candidate Victor Hedman was injured in a 5-1 loss to the Flames earlier this month. Hedman’s loss is equivalent to the loss of one of Nashville’s Four Horseman. He’s a team leader and a huge part of their defensive line.

Memories and Feelings

This brawl happened last season after Ryan Ellis landed a huge hit on former Lightning forward J.T. Brown.

[Thankfully for tonight, Brown is where he truly belongs: on the Anaheim Ducks]

Reasons to Watch

-Tuesday night hockey in Nashville!

-Full disclosure: this is a Stanley Cup Final matchup I think many hockey fans would love to see.

-Can the Predators take advantage of an injured TB team?

Tonight’s Theme Song

I absolutely had to choose ImagineDragon’s “Thunder” because it just fits with “Lightning.”

How to Watch

Puck drop is at 7 pm tonight. Catch the game on Fox Sports-TN or listen to the radio call on 102.5 The Game.