After falling short in the finale of a season-high homestand, the Tampa Bay Lightning will try to nail down a playoff berth during one of their longest road trips in 2014-15 and set a franchise record for victories.
The Lightning will also attempt to clinch back-to-back 100-point campaigns for the first time while registering their first season sweep of the slumping Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.
Tampa Bay (46-22-7) failed to wrap up a spot in the postseason Thursday when it lost 3-2 to Nashville to conclude a six-game homestand. The Lightning, winners of their previous four, outshot the Predators 30-19 but went 0 for 5 on the power play.
"We played pretty well (at home). Now we’ve got a big challenge," coach Jon Cooper said. "We’ve got to face teams that are in the hunt and battling. We have to find a way to win on the road."
Tampa Bay will play five consecutive road games in eight days and can secure a playoff berth in one of three ways in the first of those contests. The Lightning need a victory, one point and a Boston loss of any kind or just a Bruins regulation defeat.
Boston hosts the New York Rangers on Saturday in a game that begins one hour before the Lightning visit Detroit (39-22-12).
The Red Wings are also rooting for a Boston defeat after seeing their playoff lead slightly diminish Thursday. The owners of the league’s longest active playoff streak at 23 seasons, Detroit is five points ahead of the Bruins following a 6-4 defeat to San Jose and has a game in hand on Boston, which picked up a point with a 3-2 overtime loss to Anaheim.
Jimmy Howard was pulled after the first period in the Red Wings’ eighth defeat in 11 games. Howard, who has a 4.13 goals-against average in his last five appearances, will take a seat while Petr Mrazek starts Saturday.
"We’re giving up too many goals," said coach Mike Babcock, whose team has allowed 11 in the past two games. "Pete Mrazek has got to get himself ready to go. We’re giving him an opportunity because we have to have that area fixed.
"It’s amazing when you get a little confidence (on defense), we can all get settled down and start playing better again. We’re going to get regrouped and we’ll be back and ready to go."
Mrazek, however, gave up a career-high five goals on 15 shots in his only matchup with Tampa Bay this season and was lifted after two periods in a 5-1 road loss Jan. 29.
The Lightning outscored the Red Wings 11-5 in the first three meetings, beginning with a 4-3 shootout win in Detroit on Nov. 9. Alex Killorn scored the tiebreaking goal in the third period and Ben Bishop made 30 saves in a 3-1 home victory March 20.
Tampa Bay has won seven of eight over the Red Wings with Bishop posting a 1.58 GAA while starting each game.
Steven Stamkos has scored four goals in the season series and has six in his last six meetings. Cedric Paquette registered his only career hat trick in January’s matchup.
The Red Wings haven’t lost three in a row since Feb. 11-16 and haven’t dropped three straight at home since a season-worst 0-1-4 skid in December.
It’s unclear if they’ll get star forward Pavel Datsyuk back from a five-game absence due to a lower-body injury.