Last 10: Tampa Bay (3-6-1); Pittsburgh (5-1-4)
Season Series: Today’s game is the third of four meetings this season between the two clubs, who split the first two games earlier in the year with wins in each team’s home arena. Pittsburgh earned two points back on Oct. 17 with a 4-1 win at Mellon Arena, but Tampa Bay evened the series on Jan. 2 with a 3-1 victory inside the St. Pete Times Forum. The Bolts and Pens will meet for the final time on Mar. 31 in Pittsburgh.
The Big Story: Pittsburgh plays five of the next six away from home and will try to avoid losing the first three of this five-game road trip today against the Lightning. They face a tough test against Tampa Bay, who is 11-3-2 in its last 16 games at the St. Pete Times Forum and just four points out of the playoff picture, as it tries to build off Friday’s win at Washington, which snapped the Capitals 15-game unbeaten in regulation streak at home.
LIGHTNING – The Bolts open up against the defending Stanley Cup Champions in the first match of a four-game home stand today at the St. Pete Times Forum. Tampa Bay comes back into its home arena on the heels of a 3-2 win against Washington on Friday at the Verizon Center. Matt Walker scored his second goal in three games and Vincent Lecavalier netted his fourth goal in five games for the Lightning, who also got on the scoreboard thanks to Brandon Bochenski. Antero Niittymaki also made 28 saves in a performance that shut down the league’s leading goal scorer in Alex Ovechkin en route to winning for the 10th time in his last 16 starts.
PENGUINS – Pittsburgh plays for the third time today during its five-game stand on the road, where it has dropped four out of five after losing 3-1 to New Jersey on Friday. Sidney Crosby scored the team’s lone goal just over two minutes into the opening period, but Martin Brodeur took over from there, as he handed the Atlantic Division rivals their fifth straight loss against New Jersey. The Penguins are trying to hold off the Devils for rights to the division crown, but are in the middle of an eight-game stretch with seven on the road before playing six of their final eight regular-season games at home.
Who’s Hot: Lightning superstar center Steven Stamkos failed to extend his 18-game point streak on Friday, but nevertheless has amassed 17 goals and 16 assists in his last 19 games. Martin St. Louis has totaled 10 points in his last six, Vincent Lecavalier and Teddy Purcell each have four points in their last five and defenseman Kurtis Foster has five assists in as many games. In addition, Steve Downie has totaled 14 points in his last 13 contests.
Sidney Crosby has been on a roll for Pittsburgh, accumulating three goals and six assists during a seven-game road scoring streak, while putting together an eight-game overall run, during which he’s totaled six goals and six assists. Pascal Dupuis also has five points in four games.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – David Hale (lower body, placed on Injured Reserve), Zenon Konopka (back spasms, out 1-2 weeks), Ryan Malone (upper body) and Mattias Ohlund (lower body). PENGUINS – Eric Godard (groin).
Quotable: “I thought this might have been the best game we played all year, and not just because we beat Washington. They came pretty hard at the beginning of the second and in the first 10 minutes, but other than that I think we were in total control. Guys battled hard and they got two nice goals, and with all those guys out there that’s going to happen, but we kept going and played a really good game.” – Lightning goaltender Antero Niittymaki, on his team’s 3-2 win against Washington on Friday which kept the team in the hunt for the playoffs
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