Although this will be the first time this season that the Lightning will host the Penguins, these two teams have met twice already, with Tampa Bay going 1-0-1 at the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh.
The Lightning, 21-30-12, return to home ice after completing a western Canada road swing with an 8-6 drubbing administered in Calgary Sunday night.
In that game, Mark Recchi collected five assists, a new Tampa Bay Lightning record for one game, and the team’s leading scorer, Martin St. Louis, accounted for two goals and an assist. St. Louis has now produced 62 points on the season.
Vincent Lecavalier also netted two goals and an assist against the Flames, bringing his team-leading goal total to 27. Heralded rookie Steven Stamkos also had a goal and an assist, giving him six goals and seven points in his last seven games.
The Pittsburgh Penguins, 32-26-6, arrive in Tampa in the midst of a battle for their playoff lives. They are currently clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference by one point.
The Penguins have responded to the post-season pressure with three straight wins and a record of 5-1-0 over their last six games. That stretch of wins is all the more remarkable considering that Sidney Crosby, the NHL’s third-leading scorer with 79 points, sat out the last three Penguin games with a lower body injury. To the rescue, however, has been the number one scorer in the NHL, forward Evengi Malkin, who tops all scorers with 92 points, including an NHL-best 63 assists.
Reports are that Crosby could return to the Penguin lineup tonight against Tampa Bay.
Following tonight’s game, Tampa Bay will settle in for two more home games, against St. Louis on Friday and Carolina on Saturday, before heading out for a three-game road trip.