Season Series: The Lightning and Penguins face off for the first of four total meetings on the year. Last season, the clubs split four games, with the home team winning each of the two matchups in its respective arena.
The Big Story: The clubs are squaring off against each other for the first time since the Lightning ousted the Penguins from last spring’s Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in seven games. Despite losing two straight overall, Tampa Bay comes in with a five-game home win streak, which is the club’s longest at the St. Pete Times Forum since October 2007.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay kicks off a three-game home stand that wraps up just two days before the Thanksgiving holiday. The Bolts come in with wins in seven of their past 11 games, and despite returning with zero points from its most recent two-game road trip, the team is glad to be back home where it has found a winning formula. Tampa Bay has won all but one game at home this season, coming in with five consecutive wins at the Times Forum. On Monday, despite getting goals from Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos, the Bolts fell 5-2 at Winnipeg, which snapped the team’s 12-game win streak over the Jets/Thrashers franchise. The loss was due in part to another slow start in which the Lighting were both outshot and outscored in the opening period. Following the game, players held a closed-door, players-only meeting to address the team’s struggles, which head coach Guy Boucher admired and thinks could provide a spark to get back on the winning track beginning with the bout against Pittsburgh.
PENGUINS – Pittsburgh kicks off a two-game road swing through Florida, first taking on the Lightning before heading down to Sunrise to battle the Panthers on Saturday night. Entering Wednesday’s games, the Penguins tied for the NHL lead with 25 points on the year, winning 11 of their 18 games so far this season. After putting together its own five-game win streak, Pittsburgh has won just half of its six games since. The equal mix of wins and losses, however, has come as no result of a lack of scoring. In fact, Pittsburgh has scored three or more goals in each of their past 11 consecutive games heading into Thursday’s tilt. The Penguins scored six times in Tuesday’s win over the Avalanche, getting each goal from a different player. More impressive in the win, however, was that Pittsburgh rallied from down 3-1 to score five unanswered goals and earn the win. According to the team’s web site, forward Sidney Crosby, who has not appeared in an NHL game since Jan. 1, has been skating with the team but will not play on Thursday against the Bolts.
Who’s Hot: The Lightning’s Steven Stamkos has points in four of his past five games, registering five goals and eight points in that span. Vincent Lecavalier also has six points in his past seven games for the Bolts. Pittsburgh’s James Neal comes in riding a seven-game point streak with 11 points in that span, while forward Evgeni Malkin has four points in his past three games. Jordan Staal also has four points in his past two contests for the Penguins.
Notable Quotable: “What we're offering as coaches is direction, direction in task. You can't create superficial urgency all the time. Players have to feel that urgency. They do now and that's what I like.” – Guy Boucher, on his response to the players-only meeting following Monday’s 5-2 loss at Winnipeg
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