March 4, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Mark Eaton (4) handles the puck under pressure from Tampa Bay Lightning center Alex Killorn (17) during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Pittsburgh Penguins won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning Take on the Pittsburgh Penguins

The last few weeks have been quite a rollercoaster for the Tampa Bay Lightning. There have been ups and downs, injuries and returns, and most of all, wins and losses. Throughout all the turmoil, there is one thing that is certain; the boys in blue still have plenty of fight left in them. Tonight, your Tampa Bay Lightning finish off their two game home stand as they take on Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

The battle for the Southeast Division is as volatile as ever. The Lightning have gone 3-2-1 since Head Coach Jon Cooper has taken his place behind the Lightning bench. Amassing 7 points in that span, the Lightning have moved into 3rd in the Division, and 13th in the Eastern Conference. This may sound like a long way away from the playoffs; however, it should be noted that there are no more than 2 points separating each team from the bottom of the Conference, the Florida Panthers, all the way up to the 6th place Ottawa Senators.

To make a long story short, there is still a lot of hockey to be played, and nothing has yet been made impossible.

What to Expect from the Penguins:

The Pittsburgh Penguins sit atop the Eastern Conference with their 30-10-0 season, and have recently clinched their spot atop the Atlantic Division.

The Penguins came with 2 games of breaking the NHL-record 17 game winning streak set by them nearly 20 years ago. Unfortunately for them, they would come to drop 2 straight games following their streak. They’ve since rebounded with a 2 game win streak, one against the New York Rangers on the 5th and the other against the Carolina Hurricanes on the 9th.

Kris Letang will play tonight against the Lightning. Letang has been sidelined since March 26th with a broken toe during a meeting with the Montreal Canadiens. In the 28 games he has skated this season, he has 3 goals and 25 assists for a total of 28 points.

However, the Penguins will be skating tonight without their captain, Sidney Crosby. Crosby has been sidelined with a broken jaw when he was struck in the face by a deflected puck on March 30th during their meeting with the New York Islanders.

As you can see from the video, this was quite a shot the captain took. There is no current timetable for his return.

However, a Penguin we should keep our eyes on tonight is Chris Kunitz. Shy of Sidney Crosby, Kunitz is the highest points scorer on the team, with 20 goals and 26 assists for a total of 46 points.

Tonight in net will be Tomas Vokoun. Vokoun has a 10-4-0 record so far this season along with a 2.54 Goals Allowed average and a .915 Save Percentage.

What to Expect From the Lightning:

Lightning Captain Vincent Lecavalier has been on quite a hot streak lately. Lecavalier has scored 5 points, 2 goals and 3 assists, in his last 3 games. The captain has a total of 9 goals and 18 assists for a total of 27 points so far this season.

Another Lightning vet on a hot streak is Martin St. Louis. St. Louis is currently on a two game point streak with his assist on Lecavalier’s goal in the first period against Washington, and assists on the Lecavalier goal in the second, and Steven Stamkos’ Power Play Goal in the 3rd (the game winner) against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday.

Speaking of Steven Stamkos, the goal he posted in the 3rd period of Tuesday’s game brought him back to the forefront of the NHL’s League Leading Goal Scorer’s. He is currently tied with the Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin for that top spot with 26.

Both Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh are amongst the top three teams in the NHL in Goals Scored; Pittsburgh with 129 and Tampa Bay with 123.

In the net for the Lightning tonight will be Ben Bishop. So far this season, between his time in Ottawa and here in Tampa, he is currently 10-7-0. The 6’7, Denver, Colorado native we have all come to know as Big Ben currently has a Goals Allowed Average of 2.35 and a Save Percentage of .928.

So Far This Season:

This is the third and final meeting between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins this season. The Lightning have fallen to the Penguins in both of the first two encounters, the first on February 24th, and the second on March 4th, both in Pittsburgh. This is the one and only encounter to be played at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. You can bet that the Lightning will be looking to end this losing streak against the Penguins and come up with the all-too-important two points tonight.

My Take on the Matter:

It may seem like the Lightning are down, but I assure you that they are not out. As of this moment, the Tampa Bay Lightning are only of the coveted 8th and final spot in the playoffs, currently being held by former Lightning center Brad Richards and the New York Rangers.

The Lightning have a tough road ahead of them. After tonight’s meeting with the Pens, they head on the road to face the Southeast Division leading Washington Capitals. Then, they head to New York to face the Buffalo Sabres. From there, it is off to Canada to face another divisional rival, the Winnipeg Jets.

Slowly, but surely, our key players are returning from injury. Most recently, we got back the Captain, Vincent Lecavalier and Ryan Malone, both of which have been key players in the Lightning’s current upswing. We may possibly see Victor Hedman back on the ice as early as this weekend.

If I know my Lightning, and I assure you I do, there is still plenty of fight left in them. The Bolts will not stop fighting until that final buzzer sounds, and the lights go down on the final night of the season. I am sure that each and every one of the players know what this game means to them, their city, and most importantly, their Thunder; you, the Bolts Nation.

The Lightning are going to need every single point their can get their hands on if they hope to keep the playoff hope alive.

So here is what we, the Bolts Nation, need to do. We need to march down to the Tampa Bay Times Forum with our faces painted and our Jerseys on, scream at the top of our lungs, and show those flightless birds that we are NOT ready to back down, and that we are ready for them tonight. We need to hold or heads high, hold the line, and most importantly… Be The Thunder.


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