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Lightning pregame: A playoff spot could be clinched tonight

Tampa Bay leads the league with 106 points and could clinch a ticket to the post season with 15 games left in the season.
Tampa Bay Lightning center Yanni Gourde (37) (center) celebrates with left wing Ondrej Palat (18) and center Steven Stamkos (91) after his score against Winnipeg Tuesday night. The Lightning bid for their eighth consecutive victory tonight against Minnesota. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
Tampa Bay Lightning center Yanni Gourde (37) (center) celebrates with left wing Ondrej Palat (18) and center Steven Stamkos (91) after his score against Winnipeg Tuesday night. The Lightning bid for their eighth consecutive victory tonight against Minnesota. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Mar. 7, 2019
Updated Mar. 7, 2019

TAMPA — It has been a season of records for the Lightning.

And tonight proves to be no different for Tampa Bay as it enters the contest against the Minnesota Wild with the chance to clinch a 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs spot.

If the Lightning clinch a playoff spot tonight it would tie for the second-fewest games needed to clinch a playoff spot since 2005-06 when Ottawa clinched its playoff berth with 69 games. San Jose secured its own playoff spot in 2008-09 with 68 games.

The Lightning would need to win the Wild matchup and have the Montréal Canadiens, Columbus Blue Jackets or both teams lose in regulation. Or in any other fashion according to the NHL.

If Tampa Bay gets one point against Minnesota and both Montréal and Columbus lose in regulation, the Lightning could also clench a playoff berth in that scenario.

The matchup

Minnesota’s coach Bruce Boudreau knows what him and his team are getting into tonight.

“They put the fear of God in you,” he said. “If you take penalties against them, they’re probably going to win the battle of the special teams.”

Boudreau said the Lightning often get to dictate against its opponents the type of game that will be played on the ice, too. “They’re really talented,” he chuckled after Thursday’s morning skate. “They don’t have a weakness.”

Related: Up Next: vs. Wild, 7:30 p.m. Thursday | TV/Radio: CITY, TVAS2, FOX SPORTS SUN, FS-N, AM-970

But Boudreau doesn’t think that the possibility of clinching a playoff spot tonight will make any kind of difference in how Tampa Bay plays the game.

“They have bigger fish to fry than clinching a playoff spot,” he said. “I don’t think that’s the motivating part in the room, just to continue playing like they’ve been playing is what they want to do and everything else will take care of itself.” Minnesota comes into tonight’s matchup with some success of its own on the road. In the last 11 games the Wild are 7-2-2.

Its defense will certainly be a key factor in its lineup as its defensemen lead the NHL in goals scored (41), power play goals (14) and percentage of goals scored (22.2 percent).

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.