TAMPA — As far as regular-season matchups go, hockey fans won't likely see many like the one on display Thursday at Amalie Arena.
The Predators, leading the NHL in points entering the day, and the Lightning, No. 2 in points, squared off in a game that could have been a preview of the Stanley Cup final.
"We know they're the top team in the league right now," Lightning C Cedric Paquette said before Nashville's 4-1 win. "For us, it's a really good test. A big test. We just want to prove to ourselves we are a good team like them."
For one reason this Nashville team is off to a hot start and a favorite to win the Western Conference, look to its blue line.
"When you look around the league, you're going to look at the (defenses), you're putting them at the top somewhere," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "Fans of teams with solid (defensive) corps can argue and debate it, but this one is a dynamic group."
Because of that blue line, strong goaltending and a deep roster overall, Lightning D Braydon Coburn said he saw the matchup as a measuring stick. He was not about to think of it as a preview of the Stanley Cup final, though. Not in November. Too much of the season is left to start thinking that deep into the playoffs.
"Every game has a significance and an importance as you look at it and prepare for it," Coburn said. "As players, you're hyper-aware of some of the skill and danger (Nashville's) lineup presents. It gives you a little more heightened awareness when you prepare.
"When the puck is dropped, the goal is always the same: Compete as hard as you can and try to win your shift and do whatever you can to help the team win."
Palat, Hedman out again
F Ondrej Palat and D Victor Hedman missed the game as they continue to deal with injuries.
Cooper also said that Hedman will not play this weekend at Montreal and Ottawa.
Hedman had not been expected to play Thursday as he nurses an upper-body injury suffered during the most recent road trip. Palat, however, had not been ruled out earlier in the week by Cooper, but it didn't seem likely that he would return Thursday from his lower-body injury.
"(Palat has) made slight improvement but not nearly enough to get out and skate yet. But he's, I guess, inching along," Cooper said.
Palat was hurt blocking a shot in the third period at Vegas a week ago today. He was classified as day to day after that game.
"We've got a pretty deep group, so guys can step into different positions," Cooper said. "It's just a matter of how you work your lines. That's just what gets changed up a little bit. The grit factor or how we prepare, that doesn't change. The system, guys follow it. Work your tail off and we will be fine."
Lightning to honor Marty St. Louis
The Lightning said it will host Marty St. Louis Night on Nov. 21 during the game against the Panthers.
The celebration will come after St. Louis, the franchise's all-time leader in points, is inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Nov. 12.
St. Louis also leads the franchise all time in assists (588), winning goals (64), shorthanded goals (28), playoff goals (33), playoff points (68), playoff overtime goals (3) and playoff game-winning goals (8).
The Lightning retired his No. 26 on January 13, 2017.