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Last 10: Tampa Bay (4-4-2); Pittsburgh (6-4-0)
Season Series: Tonight is the second of four meetings this season between the two clubs. The Bolts traveled to Mellon Arena on Oct. 17, but lost to the Penguins 4-1. Pittsburgh will return to the St. Pete Times Forum on Mar. 14 before the Lightning wrap up the season series on Mar. 31 in the Steel City.
The Big Story: The Lightning have won four of their last six, including two of the last three at home. A big reason for that is the play of Martin St. Louis, Kurtis Foster and Mike Smith. St. Louis and Foster have combined for 21 points in their last 10 games, while Smith has gone unbeaten in regulation in four out of his last five contests, including three wins. The Bolts have picked up nine points in their last six games, including five out of a possible eight in four out of five games on the current home stand. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has lost three straight. Today’s game also features a head-to-head matchup between two of the NHL’s top goal-scoring tandems. Ryan Malone and Steven Stamkos rank in third place among the league leaders in teammate goals with 40, while Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin lead Pittsburgh with 36, a mark good for a fourth-place tie.
LIGHTNING – The Bolts conclude their five-game home stand this afternoon, with the team hitting the road for a matchup with the Sabres on Wednesday. The Lightning will play against New Jersey on Friday at the Prudential Center in the first contest of a back-to-back set which concludes the following day in Philadelphia before the team returns home to the St. Pete Times Forum. In the club’s last game on Wednesday against Montreal, Kurtis Foster tied the game in the third period and Mike Smith made 33 of 35 saves, while the Lightning defense held the Habs to just four shots on net in the final period and forced the contest into overtime. Despite the 2-1 loss, the Lightning picked up a crucial point in the standings. The Bolts penalty kill unit eliminated three opposing power play chances and has not allowed a goal with the man advantage since Dec. 23 against Philadelphia, burning off 11 straight since then. Tampa Bay ranks sixth in the NHL in penalty killing percentage at home this season, posting an 85.9 percent success rate.
PENGUINS – Pittsburgh comes into the St. Pete Times Forum looking for its first win on its current road stint. Pittsburgh, who has dropped three in a row, was shutout by the Devils on Wednesday behind Martin Brodeur’s 32 saves. The previous night, the Pens fell to Buffalo in the trip’s first contest away from Mellon Arena. Following today’s game against the Lightning, the Penguins will travel to Sunrise for a matchup with the Panthers that is also the latter half of the second back-to-back set in less than a week.
Who’s Hot: - Martin St. Louis is riding a six-game point streak, accumulating nine over that span, and Kurtis Foster has seven points in one less contest. Vincent Lecavalier has recorded seven assists in his last six, as well.
- Bill Guerin has six points in his last four games for the Penguins, while Sidney Crosby has totaled five, also in four games.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Matt Walker (lower body, placed on Injured Reserve, out day-to-day), Jeff Halpern (lower body, placed on Injured Reserve, out two weeks) and Todd Fedoruk (lower body, placed on Injured Reserve, out two weeks).
PENGUINS – None.
Quotable: “We still get a point out of this one with our third-period effort and our goaltending, but it would have been nice to get two. But we just have to keep pushing because we know it’s going to be a dogfight all the way to the end.” – Martin St. Louis after Wednesday’s game against Montreal.
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