Fans’ guide for Lightning-Wild, Kings-Predators: Key matchups, stats, how to watch

Sports

As the month of January continues, we are keeping an eye on the NHL standings; after all, following the All-Star Weekend, the March 8 trade deadline will be here before you know it, and then the playoff races will really heat up.

Thursday night’s streaming doubleheader features three teams currently in playoff position, and one that has fared much better since a midseason coaching change. To help get you ready for Minnesota WildTampa Bay Lightning (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+/Hulu) and Nashville PredatorsLos Angeles Kings (10 p.m. ET, ESPN+/Hulu), we’ve assembled this handy fan’s guide.

Here are the key players to watch in each matchup, along with other intel courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information:

Minnesota Wild vs.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Thursday, 7 p.m. ET | ESPN+/Hulu
Amalie Arena (Tampa, FL)

Wild

Power Rankings position: 26
Leading scorer: Kirill Kaprizov: 13 G | 22 A
Record: 18-20-5 (41 points)

  • Minnesota is 13-10-1 under John Hynes since he took over for the fired Dean Evason on Nov. 28. Evason was fired after the team started 5-10-4, their worst 19-game start since their inaugural season in 2000-01 (4-11-3). In the 24 games Hynes has coached, Minnesota has led after the first period in 10 of those games, tied for the second most in the NHL over that span. Minnesota is 9-1-0 in those games, tied for the second most wins among all NHL teams.

  • The Wild are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games against the Lightning, despite losing its last two games by multiple goals. Minnesota’s seven wins are the tied for the most over a 10-game span against Tampa Bay since the 2016-17 season with five other teams (the Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Vegas Golden Knights, and Winnipeg Jets), and occurred during a stretch where the Lightning won two Stanley Cup titles.

  • Kirill Kaprizov is playing in his third game of the 2024 calendar year after being out from Dec. 30 to Jan. 13 with a lower-body injury. Despite missing seven of the team’s 43 games, Kaprizov leads Minnesota in points (35); if he finishes atop the list, it’ll be the fourth consecutive season he has done so. Over his last eight games, Kaprizov has 11 points (five goals, six assists), which is tied for the most points over an eight-game span by any player for the Wild this season.

  • Joel Eriksson Ek scored two goals in the team’s 5-0 shutout over the New York Islanders on Monday. With 17 goals through 43 games this season, Erikkson Ek is on pace for a career-high 30 goals this season. Eriksson Ek is taking most of his opportunities from the inner slot, with 99 shot attempts from that area of the ice this season, good for third highest in the NHL this season. Only John Tavares and Zach Hyman rank higher.

  • Marc Andre-Fleury passed Patrick Roy for sole possession of second on the NHL’s all-time goalie wins list (at 552, behind Martin Brodeur at 691) in a 5-0 shutout of the Islanders on Monday. Fleury’s shutout was his first this season, and his first since Feb. 23, 2023 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

  • According to ESPN BET, Brock Faber has the third shortest odds (+600) to with the Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year), behind Connor Bedard (-190) and Luke Hughes (+500). If Faber wins, he would be the first player in Wild franchise history to win the award, and would be the third defenseman in the last five years to win the trophy (Moritz Seider: 2021-22; Cale Makar; 2019-20).


Lightning

Power Rankings position: 22
Leading scorer: Nikita Kucherov: 28 G | 44 A
Record: 22-17-5 (49 points)

  • The Lightning are 22-17-5 this season, good for a .557 points percentage. That’s their lowest points percentage at the 44-game mark since the 2016-17 season when they were 20-20-4 (.500), the only time in which the Lightning missed the playoffs in a full season under coach Jon Cooper. The Lightning’s six straight playoff appearances are tied with the Colorado Avalanche for the third longest active streak, and trailing only the Bruins and Maple Leafs at seven straight.

  • Head coach Jon Cooper has won 588 games including playoffs in his career — all with the Lightning — the third most for a single franchise in NHL history, trailing Al Arbour’s 859 with the Islanders and Lindy Ruff’s 628 with the Buffalo Sabres. Since Cooper took over as Lightning head coach on March 25, 2013, no team has more wins including playoffs than the Lightning’s 589 — 22 more than any other team (Bruins, 567).

  • Nikita Kucherov’s 1.67 points per game leads the NHL. In the last 25 years, the only players with a higher rate in a season with at least 40 games are Connor McDavid in 2020-21 (1.88), McDavid in 2022-23 (1.87) and Mario Lemieux in 2000-01 (1.77).

  • Steven Stamkos has scored 204 career power-play goals, which is sixth all-time for a single franchise and one shy of tying Joe Sakic’s 205 for the Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche for fifth. Stamkos is one shy of recording his seventh straight season with at least 10 power-play goal, and 13th overall. There have been eight players in NHL history with 13 seasons of 10 power-play goals all-time: Alex Ovechkin (16), Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille (14 each), Keith Tkachuk, Brendan Shanahan, Dave Andreychuk, Dino Ciccarelli and Marcel Dionne (13 each).

  • According to NHL Edge, Brayden Point has 31 speed bursts of 22+ MPH, which is third in the NHL behind Nathan MacKinnon (62) and McDavid (35). His 270 bursts of 20+ MPH trails only MacKinnon (410) for most in the NHL. Point hit a max speed of 24.15 MPH on Dec. 27 vs the Panthers, in the third period with 17:11 remaining.

  • Andrei Vasilevskiy is 39th in save percentage this season, at .898. He has not finished a season with a save percentage below .910 and that hasn’t happened since 2015-16, which was his second NHL season.

Nashville
Predators
vs.

Los Angeles
Kings

Thursday, 10 p.m. ET | ESPN+/Hulu
crypto.com Arena (Los Angeles, CA)

Predators

Power Rankings position: 18
Leading scorer: Filip Forsberg: 22 G | 26 A
Record: 24-19-1 (49 points)

  • The Predators are 11-2-1 (.821) vs. the Kings since 2017-18, their third best point percentage against an opponent during that span, behind the New Jersey Devils (9-0-1, .950) and Islanders (10-1-0, .909).

  • Nashville has played physical this season, leading the NHL with 1,008 hits, 115 more than any other team (Islanders, 893). They also have 19 major penalties this season, tied with the Ducks for second most in the NHL behind the Wild (23).

  • Filip Forsberg has 48 points through 44 team games this season. With two more points in the next two games, that will be the fewest team games by any Predators player to reach 50 points in a season. The current fastest pace was by Paul Kariya in 2006-07 (47 team games).

  • Ryan O’Reilly has 10 power-play goals this season, tied with Nikita Kucherov and Brock Boeser for the third in the NHL behind Sam Reinhart (16) and Valeri Nichushkin (13). No other Predators skater has more than four this season (Tommy Novak and Roman Josi).

  • Roman Josi enters with 166 career goals, all with the Predators, tied with Shea Weber for third in franchise history, behind Forsberg (261) and David Legwand (210).

  • Luke Evangelista has a goal in back-to-back games. With a goal against L.A., he will be the fifth Predators skater age 21 or younger with a goal in three straight games: Forsberg (three times), Alexander Radulov (three times), Kevin Fiala (two times), and Scott Hartnell (2003).


Kings

Power Rankings position: 11
Leading scorer: Anze Kopitar: 14 G | 25 A
Record: 21-12-8 (50 points)

  • The Kings enter this game with the third most points in the Pacific Division, but only a one-point lead over the Oilers (24-15-1, 49 points) and Predators (24-19-1, 49). Los Angeles remains ahead of Nashville and Edmonton due to their hot start, winning 16 of their first 23 games to begin the season (16-4-3, .761), compared to 5-8-5 (.417) over their last 18 games (since Dec. 9). That .417 mark is the fifth worst points percentage in the NHL during that span, ahead of the Anaheim Ducks (.306), Chicago Blackhawks (.289), Ottawa Senators (.278) and San Jose Sharks (.167).

  • Los Angeles’ best period has been the first. The Kings’ +18 goal differential in the first period is second best in the NHL this season, behind the Vancouver Canucks (+22), and their 24 goals against in the opening period are tied with the Bruins for the fewest by any team. The Predators have a +2 goal differential in the first period, their only period with a positive goal differential this season.

  • Anze Kopitar has played in the second most games among active NHL forwards (1,333) behind Alex Ovechkin (1,386). He’s the Kings franchise all-time leader in games played and assists (773) while his 1,180 career points are second in team history behind Marcel Dionne (1,307).

  • Drew Doughty and Kopitar have factored on the same goal 296 times in their career. That is the third most instances by a forward-defenseman pair in NHL history, behind Wayne Gretzky-Paul Coffey (350) and Phil Esposito-Bobby Orr (306) They recently passed Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang for third (295).

  • Trevor Moore has a team-leading 20 goals this season, making him the first California-born player in NHL history to score 20 goals in a season with a California-based team (he was born in Thousand Oaks, CA). Moore has four games with multiple goals this season, one more than all his other seasons combined.

  • The line with Moore, Phillip Danault and Kevin Fiala hasn’t been as productive of late. Through Dec. 9, they averaged 4.01 goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5; since then, the rate has dropped to 2.88.

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