Lightning look to improve playoff positioning vs. Red Wings

NHL Hockey

Each team will have a “P” word they will be primarily playing for when the Tampa Bay Lighting visit the Detroit Red Wings for a matinee on Saturday.

For the Lightning, they’ll be playing for the playoffs, and more specifically, seeding for the rapidly approaching postseason.

Tampa Bay has already clinched a playoff berth, but still is the hunt for a Central Division title and better playoff positioning with six games remaining.

The Lightning (34-14-2, 70 points) enter third in the Central, three points behind Carolina and one point behind second-place Florida.

Tampa Bay has two games in hand against Florida going into Saturday’s action.

Tampa Bay enters on a hot streak, having won four games in a row and five of its last six following a 3-0 home win over Dallas on Thursday.

Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said there seemed to be a playoff-like intensity in the win over Dallas with the way his team sacrificed bodies and blocked numerous shots against a Stars team fighting for a playoff spot.

“We are not exactly sure where we are going to land, so we are going to keep pressing forward,” Cooper said. “You play a team fighting for a playoff spot, you are going to get a tough one. There was a lot of guys getting in lanes, and there wasn’t a lot of ice out there. Part of that was the shot blocking and teams wanting to win.”

Tampa Bay is led by one of the league’s best goalies in Andrei Vasilevskiy, who is first in the NHL in wins (30), second in save percentage (.929) and fifth in goals-against average (2.10).

Going up against Vasilevskiy is a bad matchup for a Red Wings team that has been poor offensively all season.

Detroit (17-26-9, 43 points) is tied for 29th in the NHL in goals this season and is also having to play the rest of the season without its captain, Dylan Larkin, who is out with an upper-body injury.

Larkin and Filip Hronek are tied for the team lead in scoring with 23 points.

The Red Wings have lost three in a row and six of their last seven following a 3-1 loss to Carolina on Thursday.

“I’m not necessarily worried about who we have missing,” Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill said. “I’m worried about the guys we got. How do you manufacture offense? You spend more time in the other’s team end. No. 1, you grind them down. They chip it out in your zone and then try to make a change because they are tired, you jam it down their throats. That’s how you score. That’s how you create offense most of the time in this league, by grinding the other team down.”

Left wing Robby Fabbri (upper-body injury) has missed the last 13 games for Detroit.

Tampa Bay is 4-2 against Detroit so far this season. The teams will play again in the second of back-to-back contests on Sunday afternoon.

–Field Level Media

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