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NHL On Tap: Lightning face Rangers, look to sweep back-to-back set

Welcome to the NHL On Tap. Three NHL.com writers will share what they are most looking forward to on the schedule each day. Today, their choices from 11 games on Thursday.

Lightning, Rangers renew acquaintancesThe Tampa Bay Lightning hadn’t played for a week prior to a 4-1 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday, and now they gear up for the second half of the back-to-back set against the New York Rangers (7 p.m. ET; BSSUN, MSG 2, ESPN+, SN NOW). The Lightning (21-11-1) are seven points behind the second-place Toronto Maple Leafs in the Atlantic Division and would like to push toward one of those top two spots in the division. The Rangers (19-12-5) are coming off a 4-0 home loss to the Washington Capitals on Tuesday but are 8-2-0 in their past 10 games and clinging onto the final wild card in the Eastern Conference. Neither team is having the season they would have liked so far, but this once again could be a Stanley Cup Playoff preview. Tampa Bay defeated New York in six games in the Eastern Conference Final last season, but the Rangers won the only game between the teams this season, 3-1 on Oct. 11. — David Satriano, staff writer

Video: MTL@TBL: Point puts home a goal in the 2nd period

Resilience keeping champs in playoff huntThat the Colorado Avalanche are 19-12-2 and in the thick of the Stanley Cup Playoff race approaching the end of the calendar year is remarkable considering they are without forwards Gabriel Landeskog (knee), Darren Helm (hip), Valeri Nichushkin (upper body), Shane Bowers (upper body) and Martin Kaut (upper body), defensemen Bowen Byram (lower body) and Josh Manson (lower body), and goalie Pavel Francouz (lower body). Two of their top players should be prime contenders for postseason awards: defenseman Cale Makar, who has 31 points (eight goals, 23 assists), the fourth straight season he’s had at least 30, and forward Mikko Rantanen, who has scored five goals in his past six games and whose Avalanche-best 24 goals are 15 more than any teammate. Forward Nathan MacKinnon will miss his 11th straight game when the Avalanche host the Los Angeles Kings (9 p.m. ET; TVAS, ALT, BSW, ESPN+, SN NOW), but his return is close and would be a first step that may set up the reigning champions for a big move in the standings. The Kings (20-12-6) are second in the Pacific Division with a season-high six-game point streak (5-0-1) and trending upward following a breakthrough 2021-22 that ended with a loss to the Edmonton Oilers in Game 7 of the Western Conference First Round. — Jon Lane, staff writer

Wild seek eighth straight win at homeThe Minnesota Wild will try for their eighth consecutive home win when they host the Dallas Stars (8 p.m. ET; BSN, BSWIX, BSSWX, ESPN+, SN NOW). Both teams enter Xcel Energy Center playing some of their best hockey. The Stars (21-9-6) are 7-2-1 in their past 10 games and sit atop the Central Division while the Wild (20-12-2) are 7-3-0 in their past 10 and overtook the Avalanche for third place in the division following their 4-1 win at the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday. Mats Zuccarello has seven goals in his past six games, including the game-winner Tuesday. Stars forward Jason Robertson is starting to heat up again; after a bit of a dry spell following the end of his 18-game point streak Dec. 4, he has eight points (one goal, seven assists) during a five-game streak. — William Douglas, staff writer

Video: MIN@WPG: Gaudreau scores off Zuccarello’s pass

Thursday scheduleDetroit Red Wings at Buffalo Sabres (7 p.m. ET; SN360, SNE, SNW, MSG-B, BSDET, ESPN+, SN NOW)

The Sabres (16-14-2) seek their fourth win in a row in their first game since Dec. 19. Games scheduled for Dec. 23 and Tuesday were postponed because of severe winter weather in Buffalo. Forward Tage Thompson has nine points (five goals, four assists) in his past five games. The Red Wings (15-11-7) go for their third consecutive win after overcoming a four-goal deficit to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-4 in overtime at PPG Paints Arena on Wednesday, the first four-goal comeback win on the road in the Detroit’s 96-year history.

Montreal Canadiens at Florida Panthers (7 p.m. ET; BSFL, TSN2, RDS, ESPN+, SN NOW)

The Panthers (15-16-4) return from the holiday break looking to end a three-game losing streak. The Canadiens (15-17-3) also have lost three in a row (0-2-1) and are looking to improve their power play. They were 0-for-5 in their 4-1 loss to the Lightning on Wednesday and are 2-for-37 (5.4 percent) in their past 11 games.

New York Rangers at Tampa Bay Lightning (7 p.m. ET; BSSUN, MSG 2, ESPN+, SN NOW)

Defenseman Adam Fox is third on the Rangers with 35 points (seven goals, 28 assists) in 36 games and needs two points for 200 for his NHL career. The Lightning have won five straight home games. Forward Steven Stamkos has at least one point in 17 of his past 19 games (nine goals, 16 assists).

Ottawa Senators at Washington Capitals (7 p.m. ET; NBCSWA, TSN5, RDSI, ESPN+, SN NOW)

The Senators (15-16-3) look to build on their 3-2 shootout victory against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday after they had lost their final three games before the holiday break (0-2-1). Ottawa forward Drake Batherson had two assists against Boston, extending his point streak to 11 games (seven goals, nine assists). The Capitals (20-13-4) look for their sixth straight win. Washington defenseman Erik Gustafsson has five goals in his past five games, including one in the Capitals’ 4-0 win at the Rangers on Tuesday.

Columbus Blue Jackets at New York Islanders (7:30 p.m. ET; MSGSN, BSOH, ESPN+, SN NOW)

The Blue Jackets (10-21-2) seek to end a six-game losing streak in their return to play after their game against the Sabres scheduled for Tuesday was postponed because of severe winter weather in Buffalo. Columbus forward Jack Roslovic has four assists in his past three games. The Islanders (20-14-2) are vying for their third win in a row following their 5-1 win against the Penguins on Tuesday. Ilya Sorokin had 20 saves and got his 51st win in his 100th NHL game.

Chicago Blackhawks at St. Louis Blues (8 p.m. ET; BSMW, NBCSCH, ESPN+, SN NOW)

The Blues (16-16-3) have lost three in a row (0-1-2). Forward Pavel Buchnevich had an assist in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Maple Leafs on Tuesday in his 400th NHL game and has 11 points (six goals, five assists) in his past nine games. The Blackhawks (8-21-4) have lost nine of their past 10 games (1-9-0).

Dallas Stars at Minnesota Wild (8 p.m. ET; BSN, BSWIX, BSSWX, ESPN+, SN NOW)

Minnesota plays its first home game since Dec. 18. Zuccarello had a goal and an assist against the Jets on Tuesday, making him the 10th player in Wild history with 50 multipoint games. Jamie Benn scored his 343rd NHL goal in the Stars’ 3-2 win against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday, passing Brian Bellows for second all-time for the Stars/Minnesota North Stars, behind Mike Modano (557).

Vancouver Canucks at Winnipeg Jets (8 p.m. ET; TSN3, SNP, ESPN+, SN NOW)

Jets forward Sam Gagner will play in his 1,000th NHL game. Selected by the Oilers with the No. 6 pick at the 2007 NHL Draft, he has 516 points (190 goals, 326 assists) in 999 games with seven teams. Winnipeg (21-13-1) looks to end a three-game losing streak while Vancouver (16-15-3) has won three in a row. Bo Horvat had two goals and two assists in the Canucks’ 6-2 win against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday and is tied with Thompson for the second in the NHL with 26 goals, behind Edmonton forward Connor McDavid (31).

Los Angeles Kings at Colorado Avalanche (9 p.m. ET; TVAS, ALT, BSW, ESPN+, SN NOW)

Kings forward Gabriel Vilardi has 23 points (15 goals, eight assists) in 37 games, matching his NHL best set in 2020-21 (10 goals, 13 assists in 54 games). Makar has 54 multipoint games since his NHL regular-season debut Oct. 3, 2019, two behind Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators (56) and John Carlson of the Capitals (56) for most by an NHL defenseman during that span.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Arizona Coyotes (9 p.m. ET; BSAZ, SNO, ESPN+, SN NOW)

The Maple Leafs (22-7-6) go for their fourth consecutive win in their first visit to Mullett Arena. Toronto forward William Nylander has goals in four straight games, including the game-winner in the Maple Leafs’ 5-4 overtime win against the Blues on Tuesday. The Coyotes (12-16-5) are looking for their third win in a row after returning from the holiday break with a 6-3 win against the Avalanche on Tuesday. Forward Nick Schmaltz has nine points (three goals, six assists) during a six-game point streak for Arizona.

Philadelphia Flyers at San Jose Sharks (10:30 p.m. ET; SN1, SNE, SNW, NBCSCA, NBCSP, ESPN+, SN NOW)

The Flyers (11-17-7) will be without goalie Carter Hart (upper body), who was placed on injured reserve Wednesday. Philadelphia forward Travis Konecny has three consecutive multipoint games (three goals, three assists). Sharks (11-19-6) defenseman Erik Karlsson had two assists in a 6-2 loss to the Canucks on Tuesday, extending his point streak to an NHL career-high 10 games (two goals, 14 assists).

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