Lightning (9-7-1, 19 Points) at Penguins (12-6-0, 24 Points)
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Network; AM 970 WFLA
It’s the first of three meetings on the year between the two teams. Last season, the Bolts dropped three of four contests to Pittsburgh, with Tampa Bay’s only victory coming in the first meeting of the year back on November 17, 2011. The clubs will meet again on March 4 in Pittsburgh and on April 11 in Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay rebounded from a previous loss on Thursday night, defeating the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday to move into sole possession of first place in the Southeast Division. Tampa Bay looks to build off that as it closes its two-game road trip, seeking its fourth win in five games. Things aren’t looking as rosy for the Penguins, however, which despite winning three of their past four, found out Saturday afternoon that superstar forward Evgeni Malkin will be out of action on Sunday as he undergoes further health evaluation stemming from an incident on Friday night against the Florida Panthers.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay concludes a two-game back-to-back set on the road tonight before coming back home for just one game prior to departing for yet another road trip that begins Thursday in New York City. The Bolts have won three of their past four, and scored a big road victory on Saturday at Carolina, whom they passed for sole possession of first place in the Southeast Division. After a 1-0 game held up through 40 minutes, the team’s combined for six goals in the third period alone, including four from Tampa Bay, that earned the Lightning a 5-2 win. Marc-Andre Bergeron, Benoit Pouliot, Tom Pyatt and Steven Stamkos each scored in the victory, but it was perhaps Richard Panik’s first career NHL goal, also the game-winner, that underscored a 32-save effort from Mathieu Garon.
PENGUINS – Pittsburgh skates in the final leg of a three-game home stand, on which so far the team has split the first two games with a win and a loss. Pittsburgh has been victorious in all but one of its past four games, and earned a 3-1 win against Florida on Friday night that perhaps was subdued to a dangerous situation involving Evgeni Malkin, who fell hard into the boards and sustained an injury that led to severe headaches and slight disorientation, according to the NHL Network. He has been ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Bolts, and instead according to the Penguins’ official team web site, the team will be forced to adjust its lineup against Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos comes in riding a five-game point streak with five goals and nine points in that span. Cory Conacher also has points in four straight for the Bolts, while Vincent Lecavalier has points in all but one of his past seven games. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has collected eight points in his past five games and Chris Kunitz also has registered at least a point in all but one of his past six games for the Penguins.
Lightning forward Ryan Malone, although currently on Injured Reserve, was drafted by the Penguins and spent four seasons with Pittsburgh prior to joining the Lightning in 2008. Forward Adam Hall also spent time with the Penguins, appearing in the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals alongside Malone. Mathieu Garon won a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh the following year, in 2009.
The Lightning lead the NHL with 66 goals scored through 17 games this season.
The Lightning have allowed just four power-play goals on the road this season, which ranks third in the NHL among all 30 teams.
Steven Stamkos leads all NHL players with 26 points. Martin St. Louis leads the NHL with 19 assists, while the Penguins’ Sidney Crosby is second with 18.
“We had no depth two years ago and now we have guys knocking on our door. They’re all going to get a good look and some opportunities in the future.” – Lightning head coach Guy Boucher, speaking on the team’s youth, highlighted by Richard Panik who scored his first career NHL goal on Saturday at Carolina
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