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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, February 27th (All times Eastern)

Tampa Bay Lightning (33-20-5) at Nashville Predators (25-24-10), 8 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - Both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Nashville Predators are expected to get key pieces back to the roster in the near future.

While the Lightning have stayed in the playoff race despite losing Steven Stamkos to injury, the Predators hope to still be in the mix by the time Pekka Rinne returns.

Nashville resumes its homestand on Thursday night looking to stay in the postseason hunt as it faces Tampa Bay.

The Predators enter play last in the Central Division with 60 points and five points back of the Vancouver Canucks for the second wild card spot in the Western Conference. And while that five-point deficit doesn't appear that large, Nashville does have three other teams between it and Vancouver.

Rinne, a former Vezina Trophy nominee, could be the difference maker and has been out since late October due to a hip infection. However, the 31-year-old has been assigned to the minor leagues on a conditioning assignment.

The Preds, who lost three straight and five of seven (2-2-3) before the Olympic break, had gone with Carter Hutton and Marek Mazanec in net after Rinne went down with injury and later acquired Devan Dubnyk in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers.

Both Mazanec, who is currently in the minors, and Hutton saw action in a 4-2 road loss to the Lightning on Dec. 19, with Hutton allowing four goals on 14 shots before getting pulled in the second period.

That victory by the Lightning snapped a three-game losing streak to the Predators and the clubs have split the last six meetings in Nashville.

While the Predators play the second of six in a row at home, the Lightning open up a four-game road trip after losing four of six going into the Olympic break.

Tampa Bay is tied with Montreal for second place in the Atlantic Division, eight points behind Boston despite having been without Stamkos since Nov. 11 due to a fractured right tibia. Stamkos has missed the last 41 games and has ramped up his rehab, but was unable to compete in the Olympics and also was not cleared medically for this road trip.

Finnish forward Valtteri Filppula, though, should return to action tonight after missing the Olympics due to a broken right ankle suffered on Feb. 6 versus Toronto.

Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop comes into play ranking among the league leaders in several categories, having posted 28 wins, four shutouts, a 1.65 goals against average and .933 save percentage this season. He has never before faced the Predators.

02/27 10:40:38 ET