The Tampa Bay Lightning will host the New Jersey Devils in their next NHL regular-season game.
On Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Lightning pulled off a thrilling comeback from 0:2 and secured their 20th victory of the season. Despite an early setback and failing to overcome Los Angeles goalie Cam Talbot, the team, under the guidance of coach Jon Cooper, managed to equal the score in a short window thanks to goals from Tyler Mott and Brandon Hagel. Ultimately, the "Bolts" won in overtime and controlled the game. Despite it being only their third victory in the last seven games, it proved to be critically important for the team who regained their footing and earned the extra point. Hagel who scored a goal and an assist, acknowledged the solid play of his team.
With 20 wins and 45 points, the Lightning are eighth and temporarily in the playoffs zone. The team alternates victories and defeats, beating teams like Washington, Montreal, Vegas, St. Louis and Edmonton, although not all these clubs are currently formidable opponents. At home, they have 14 victories and 6 defeats, compared to 9 victories and 13 defeats on the road.
The team has been hampered by injuries to key players, including Tanner Jeannot, Nick Paul, Erik Cernak and Hayden Fleury. Nikita Kucherov leads the team with 67 points, including 28 goals. Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy shows an average save percentage of 89.31% with an average of 3 goals conceded per game. An injury to Russian defender Mikhail Sergachev forced him out for 8 games, with his return date still undetermined.
The New Jersey Devils show improved results, securing three victories in their last five games, albeit falling to the Western Conference leaders - Vancouver, with a 4:6 score. The team's recent 13-8 result demonstrates a good performance, in spite of the absence of several key players due to injuries, such as defender Dougie Hamilton and forwards Ondrej Palat and Timo Meier. Centre Forward Nico Hischier is coming back into shape after an injury, however, the team is now forced to play without their leader Jack Hughes, who sustained an upper-body injury. Hughes, the team leader with 45 points, is set to miss several weeks. In addition to Hughes's absence, the team also lacks Timo Meier, Ondrej Palat, Tomas Nosek, Jonas Siegenthaler and Dougie Hamilton due to injuries.
Young defender Luke Hughes, in his first full NHL season, has already showed his capabilities, recording 22 points and earning the third star of the final week of 2023. New Jersey is actively contending for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, trailing Tampa by just one point. The team averages 3.46 goals per game and concedes 3.54, demonstrating efficiency both on the power play and penalty kill. Jack Hughes, the team points leader with 15 goals and 29 assists, has racked up 24 points in the last 18 games despite missing five games. In the last away match, Hischier, McLeod and Mercer each scored twice, underlining the depth of the team's roster and its strong offensive capabilities.
Since the 2018/19 season, Tampa Bay has won 8 of 11 games against New Jersey, including 4 victories in the last 5 games, but the latest victory is held by the Devils with a 5:2 score.
Kucherov was quiet in the last game, but I think this won't last long, he needs to become the singular leader of the scoring race. Tampa has gained momentum and should defeat New Jersey at home with their injuries to key players, including the young rookie Hughes.