The Tampa Bay Lightning hope to continue dominating the series and extend their overall point streak to nine games when they host the struggling Detroit Red Wings for an Atlantic Division battle Thursday. The Lightning are 7-0-1 in their last eight games after a 5-1 victory at Carolina on Tuesday and have won the last eight contests against Detroit, starting with two in the 2015-16 playoffs and the latest a 3-2 decision Oct. 16.
Captain Steven Stamkos, who leads the league with 20 points, and linemate Nikita Kucherov (NHL-most 11 goals) have hit the scoresheet in every game for Tampa Bay while goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy (99 career games) has been outstanding with an NHL-best eight wins. The Lightning are second in the league at 4.10 goals per game and the Red Wings are in the bottom third (2.6) after dropping a 1-0 decision at Buffalo on Tuesday for their fifth consecutive setback (0-4-1). Detroit could get speedy forward Andreas Athanasiou back in the lineup after a contract dispute to give the offense a boost, and defenseman Danny DeKeyser is close to returning after missing the last seven games with an ankle injury. “We’ve been playing better than getting only one point out of 10, but you can’t fall back to that either and stay somewhat happy about that,” Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg told the Detroit Free Press. “The only thing we can do is stick together here. … We know it is going to be a challenge for us in Tampa.”
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, FSN Detroit, FSN Sun (Tampa Bay)
ABOUT THE RED WINGS (4-5-1): The 23-year-old Athanasiou broke out last season with 18 goals and 29 points in 64 games before holding out and signing a one-year, $1.378 million contract last week. “We all know what type of player AA is,” Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard, who is expected to start Thursday, told the Free Press. “He uses his speed, he’s got a great skill set and he will help this lineup a lot.” Defenseman Mike Green leads the team with 11 points while Zetterberg and Dylan Larkin have nine, but the Red Wings need more from Gustav Nyquist (two goals, four points) and Darren Helm (one, three).
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (8-1-1): Rookie defenseman Mikhail Sergachev will be around the entire season after playing his 10th game Tuesday, activating the first of his three-year entry level contract. The 19-year-old Russian, acquired in a big trade with Montreal for Jonathan Drouin, leads all rookie blueliners with four goals and has nine points overall with a plus-4 rating - averaging 12:46 of ice time. Brayden Point and Vladislav Namestnikov are also off to strong starts offensively with four goals and seven assists apiece while Anton Stralman has four points and leads the league with a plus-11.
1. Detroit Fs Tomas Tatar and Justin Abdelkader are each one point away from 200 in their careers.
2. Stamkos and Kucherov can each match the franchise record point streak of 11 to start a single season, set by Martin St. Louis (2009-10).
3. The Red Wings are 3-for-30 on the power play over the last nine games after scoring twice with the man advantage in the season opener.
PREDICTION: Lightning 5, Red Wings 2