Home-Ice on the Line
Penguins (45-24-8, 98 pts) @ Lightning (41-24-11, 93 pts)
Time: 7:38 p.m. | Where: St. Pete Times Forum
Season Series: Pittsbuirgh leads the season series, 2-1, and have outscored Tampa Bay, 16-7, in three meetings this year.
In the previous meeting on Jan. 5, Pittsburgh defeated Tampa Bay, 8-1, behind a hat trick from Chris Kunitz. That was the last game Sidney Crosby has played in.
Crosby who will participate in the Penguins game day skates during their current two game road trip, has missed 36 games due to concussion like symptoms. Pittsburgh is 19-12-5 without him.
The Lightning defeated Pittsburgh 5-3, on Oct. 27, in the only meeting in Tampa this season. Craig Adams had a goal and 2 assists in the loss.
What’s on the Line?: Tonight is a likely playoff preview of a 4-5 matchup between the Penguins and Lightning.
Home-ice is on the line as Pittsburgh holds a 5 point lead over the Lightning for the No. 4 spot. Pittsburgh can move 7 points in front of Tampa Bay with a win in regulation.
Montreal (89pts) trails Tampa Bay by 4 points for the No. 5 seed. The Canadiens are a team that Pittsburgh wants to stay away from in the first round. The Lightning have two games in hand on the Canadiens and one game in hand on Pittsburgh.
A Tampa Bay win tonight would pretty much secure a Penguins – Lightning first round matchup.
Previous meetings mean nothing?:
The Penguins have matched up very well with the Tampa Bay Lightning this season and a first round series is said to favor Pittsburgh by those around the league.
However, the previous three meetings pretty much mean nothing as Pittsburgh had Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby in those contests.
The Penguins earlier in the season could match the Lightning’s high octane attack in a wide open game. That’s the worst case situation for the Penguins now, getting into a game of trading chances against teams like Tampa Bay and Philadelphia.
That’s the type of game the Penguins will need to stay away from tonight and if the teams meet in the first round.
Where Pittsburgh holds a significant advantage is on the blueline and Marc Andre Fleury in goal.
This is a Lightning team that is not very good defensively and Pittsburgh will need to make them pay on the forecheck. This is a group that is vulnerable against physical teams down low.
Pittsburgh needs to exploit them in that area.
Malone returns to the lineup: Former Penguin Ryan Malone will make his return to the lineup tonight for the first time since tearing a muscle in his groin on Feb. 8.
Malone has 34 points in 50 games this year.
Lineup Buzz: We may see two lineup changes for Pittsburgh tonight. Mike Comrie is expected to return to the lineup.
Heard some chatter yesterday that the team has not been happy with Matt Niskanen’s play the past two games and he may sit for Deryk Engelland.