Wild return home to face Lightning
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Minnesota Wild will play two straight games at home leading into the Olympic break, beginning with Tuesday night's contest against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Wild return home following a 1-1-2 road trip. They are just 10-14-5 as the visiting club this season compared to 19-7-2 at home.
Minnesota got goals from Dany Heatley and Keith Ballard inside of 10 minutes left in the third period on Saturday versus Calgary to force overtime before falling 4-3 to the Flames.
Matt Cooke scored shorthanded and Darcy Kuemper made 28 saves in his 10th start in a row. He gave up the winner 2:25 into overtime on a rebound.
"It's a big point, no question, but starts have cost us the last two games," Heatley said. "We've got to take the points right now, but the start of this trip was a tough trip, a lot of travel, some good teams. We'll take four but we would've liked six, I think."
With 65 points, the Wild are two points ahead of the Vancouver Canucks for seventh place in the Western Conference, but now trail third-place Colorado by 12 points in the Central Division.
Mikael Granlund and Zach Parise both had assists in Saturday's loss to keep up their hot stretches. Granlund has two goals and six helpers over a five-game point streak, while Parise has three goals and eight points in his last three games.
Kuemper will make the start again tonight and has never faced the Lightning.
Tampa Bay will try to close out a four-game road trip even after besting the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 in overtime on Saturday. Nate Thompson scored twice, including the winner with 23.1 seconds left on the clock.
Victor Hedman collected a carom off the end boards and dished to the slot for Thompson, who slid the puck past Carey Price's left pad and inside the right post.
"The first one I got was a lucky bounce and the other one was a great play by Hedman. I shot it as hard as I could and it went in," said Thompson.
Hedman had two assists, giving him 10 points in his past five games, while Ben Bishop made 28 saves in the win. He was able to make the start despite exiting Thursday's game early after getting hit on the head by the skate of teammate Nikita Kucherov.
The Lightning had dropped the first two stops of their road trip, but have won 10 of their last 14 as the guest. That has helped them stay within four points of first-place Boston in the Atlantic Division.
Bishop is likely to start tonight and made 25 saves in a 3-1 home win over the Wild on Oct. 17. That was his first ever meeting with the club.
Tampa Bay has lost five of its past seven in Minnesota.
The Lightning have been without star center Steven Stamkos since he suffered a broken leg on Nov. 11, but the Olympic hopeful practiced on Monday and is hopeful to return by week's end.
Minnesota, meanwhile, could have defenseman Jared Spurgeon back in the lineup tonight for the first time in 15 games. He has been out with a lower-body ailment.
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