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Shocking the competition: Kraken vs Lightning preview

The sunny Florida road swing continues

A mid-range shot of Victor Hedman (left) in a blue home jersey and Yanni Gourde (right) in a white away jersey. Both players are looking towards the right-hand frame of the shot. Photo by Mark LoMoglio/NHLI via Getty Images

The Need to Knows

The Time: 4 pm PT / 7 pm ET

The Place: Amalie Arena, Tampa, FL

Where to Watch: ROOT-NW (ESPN+ for out-of-market fans, Sportsnet+ in Canada)

Where to Listen: KJR 93.3 FM

An Opposing Viewpoint: Raw Charge

Know Your Enemy

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been to three Stanley Cup Finals in a row, winning the first two appearances, and it doesn’t seem like their window is coming to a close just yet. Even though Boston and Toronto are leading the Atlantic Division in dominant fashion, the Lightning still sit pretty in a playoff spot right behind them in third place. Tampa’s 35 standings points also put them in 9th place in the league.

For major players to keep an eye on, Nikita Kucherov’s stat line of 11 goals and 28 assists sets him up for not just the team lead in points, but 5th in the entire league. Steven Stamkos has 15 goals on the season as well. The Rocket Richard Trophy might be a little out of reach for Stamkos, but he is still within the top 20 goal scorers in the league.

Though one negative storyline in Tampa this season is that Victor Hedman hasn’t been playing quite up to his usual standards. Of course, when someone like Hedman falls, it takes a lot for for it to truly drop into bad territory, but some defensive weaknesses could be exploited against him.

Game Preview

The Kraken rebounded from a minor losing skid against Florida, Montreal, and Washington by coming out strong with a 5-2 victory against the Panthers. When teams go on an extended road trip, while striving for higher is always encouraged, a good rule of thumb is to come out of the trip at .500. So far, the Kraken sit exactly there, so getting a victory against either Tampa or Carolina will keep them there. Neither opponent is going to make things easy on the Kraken, as they all sit relatively equal in the league-wide standings. Defeating quality competition, though, will be key if the Kraken want to keep ahold of their current second place standing in the Pacific Division.

The Kraken have also bolstered their goal scoring ability going into this game by acquiring Eeli Tolvanen off waivers from the Nashville Predators. Frankly, I’m not even sure how Tolvanen got on waivers in the first place. Their loss is our gain, though! He’s a player with a shoot-first mentality, and while the Kraken do have lots of individual goal scorers, as of late it’s been a lot of the usual suspects doing the scoring.

A big wrinkle for the Kraken in this game will be the suspension of Jamie Oleksiak. Against the Capitals, he was issued a match penalty for a hit against Alexander Alexeyev, and with that came a sentence from the NHL of three games. He’s not the Kraken’s most physical defenseman in terms of sheer totals — Adam Larsson has him hit in hits and blocks — but Oleksiak is still a valuable anchor for the Kraken’s blue-line. How they will adapt without him remains to be seen.