MORNING SKATE BUZZ
LIGHTNING (9-7-1, 19 PTS) @ PENGUINS (12-6-0, 24 PTS)
The injury to Evgeni Malkin won’t have head coach Dan Bylsma trying to even out his lines tonight vs the Tampa Bay Lightning. Bylsma will move James Neal up to Sidney Crosby’s line with Chris Kunitz. Pascal Dupuis will skate on the second line with Beau Bennett and Brandon Sutter.
Sutter tonight moves into more of a scoring line center role and has shown some good early chemistry with Beau Bennett who is coming off his best game as a pro.
Dustin Jeffrey who scored in Friday night’s win, will center the third line.
Crosby and Neal have never played full time together, except in spurts, and there is obvious intrigue of what type of damage this line could do.
When the Penguins acquired Neal in February 2011, the idea of acquiring Neal was that he was viewed as the perfect winger for Crosby. Concussions issues for Crosby never saw that plan happen as Neal became an obvious fit with Evgeni Malkin.
Neal enters today’s game tied for the league lead with 12 goals (8 PPG), while Crosby is second in assists with 18. Crosby a better than playmaker than Malkin, could actually end up being a better fit for Neal than Malkin.
Bylsma today cited Neal’s “Elite” ability to get open when playing with Malkin and Crosby.
As for Malkin, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said today that he heard Malkin is feeling better today and the Penguins to this point are denying a report from the Tribune-Review on Saturday that indicates Malkin is suffering from concussion like symptoms, including “severe headaches and disorientation”.
Head coach Dan Bylsma said minutes ago that Malkin will be re-evaluated after tonight’s game that while a concussion has “not been ruled out”, Bylsma said, “happy to report Malkin has not been suffering from headaches or disorientation.”
Bylsma later repeated “not at any point” has Malkin had headaches or disorientation, making it clear that the team wants to make it known that Malkin has not had any headaches.
HIGH SCORING LIGHTNING
Tonight’s game features the two highest scoring teams in the NHL. Tampa Bay is averaging a league-best 3.88 goals, while Pittsburgh is second at 3.28. Steve Stamkos enters today’s action 1st in NHL in points (26) and goals (12), while Sidney Crosby is second in points (25) and second in assists (18). James Neal is tied for 1st in goals (12) and Marty St. Louis leads the NHL with 19 assists.
The Lightning coming off a 5-2 road win vs Carolina last night, are 3-4-0 on the road this season.
Goaltender Marc Andre Fleury (9-3-0, 2.22 GAA, .917 save percentage) will get the start in goal. Fleury is 7-1 with a 1.88 GAA in his last eight starts. Fleury has posted a 1.00 GAA in his last three home starts vs the Lighting.
PENGUINS EXPECTED LINEUP
Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – James Neal
Beau Bennett – Brandon Sutter – Pascal Dupuis
Matt Cooke – Dustin Jeffrey – Tyler Kennedy
Tanner Glass – Joe Vitale – Craig Adams
Brooks Orpik – Paul Martin
Matt Niskanen – Kris Letang
Simon Despres – Deryk Engelland
Marc Andre Fleury will start in goal