Preview: Lightning test their mettle against high-octane Flames
TV: FOX Sports Sun
TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 8:30 p.m.
STREAM IT LIVE ON THE FOX SPORTS APP
Western Canadian teams are getting their lone chance to see how they stack up on their home ice against the NHL's top team this weekend.
On Thursday, it's the Calgary Flames' turn to test the Tampa Bay Lightning. For the Lightning, it's a chance to face one of the Western Conference's top squads.
The Lightning had an eight-point advantage over four teams including the Flames entering play Wednesday night. Tampa Bay is coming off a 5-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks in a testy affair on Tuesday while the Flames were blanked 2-0 by the Stars in Dallas the same night.
The Lightning dropped the opener of their Western road trip 6-5 in overtime Winnipeg on Tuesday and wrap it up Saturday night in Edmonton against the Oilers in a game that will be shown nationally in Canada. They are 9-0-1 in their past 10 games.
The player to watch for Tampa Bay in Calgary surprisingly is fourth-line winger Danick Martel, who replaced Ryan Callahan in the lineup in Vancouver after Callahan was scratched following warmups. Martel picked up an assist for his first point in six NHL games, but his second period hit that injured Canucks defenseman Troy Stecher made him a target for the remainder of the night.
I think pretty much everyone thought I would have a bad game and just play two, three minutes, maybe one, two shifts and just feel it around and cover some shifts," Martel told reports.
"But I wanted to make a difference. I don't have a lot of opportunities at the start of the year, so when I have some, I have to get ready. I said the same thing the first game. I'm playing my role. I played a decent game again today for the warmup I had, so I'm proud of it."
The Lightning were tight-lipped on Callahan's injury other than to say it was in the upper body area and that he wasn't sure when exactly it occurred.
"We hope (it's minor)," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.
Calgary's vaunted offence will give the Lightning a test as well. Tampa gave up 40 shots in Winnipeg and 38 in Vancouver. Tampa goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy will be trying to stop a Flames offence that has four players with 17-plus goals each - Sean Monahan (20), Elias Lindholm (17) and Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk 15 each after 35 games of the regular season.
The Flames went 2-1 on their road trip but were left to bemoan an off night in Dallas that they know they can't repeat on Thursday.
"It's a good test," Flames captain Mark Giordano said.
"We haven't seen them yet but we know what they've been doing - pretty much winning every game. They are up top by five or six points. They're a team that is one of the best if not the best in the league right now so it's a real test. We've got to clean some stuff up."
David Rittich is expected to get the start in goal for Calgary. He drew praise for his efforts in Dallas.