The Tampa Bay Lightning search for continued success against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the final game of their nearly eight-game homestand.
The Tampa Bay Lightning has been on quite an adventure as of late. Before the National Hockey League stopped spinning for the 2016 NHL All-Star Game, the Tampa Bay Lightning had won eight of their last nine games. On Wednesday night, the Lightning picked up right where they left off when they defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-1 at the Amalie Arena.
Tonight, the Tampa Bay Lightning has a new challenge in front of them. The Lightning will take on captain Sidney Crosby and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Amalie Arena in what will be the final game of their nearly eight-game home stand. This sounds easy enough, right?
This is not the first time these two teams have met in the center of the ice this season. The Penguins made a trip to the Amalie Arena on January 15th. In this encounter, an early overtime goal from Vladislav Namestnikov, which would complete a hat trick, would lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 5-4 victory over the Penguins.
The Penguins have one major disadvantage heading into tonight’s encounter. The Penguins will be without the assistance of center Evgeni Malkin. Malkin will remain in Pittsburgh with a lower body injury as his teammates travel to Tampa. In addition to Malkin, the Penguins will also be without center Eric Fehr. Much like Malkin, Fehr will miss quite a bit of time thanks to a lower body injury.
Thank goodness, on the other side of the ice, the Tampa Bay Lightning are mostly healthy. While this may not seem like much, when you think about the way the season started and the immense amount of injuries the Lightning’s offense took, you know all-too-well what an achievement this really is.
Now, according to Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, Tampa Bay Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper has stated he will be going with the same lines that ran in Wednesday night’s victory over the Detroit Red Wings. This means center Jonathan Marchessault and defenseman Matt Carle will be the healthy scratches in tonight’s encounter. As Smith reported, this is the sixth time in the last seven games Carle has been scratched.
As you can imagine, this sparks a firestorm of questions about Matt Carle’s future with the Tampa Bay Lightning. As most of you already know, this has been a hot button topic for quite some time, but the more and more he finds himself a healthy scratch the winds of chatter fan the fire that much more.
Much like the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Pittsburgh Penguins are on quite the hot streak heading into tonight’s Eastern Conference showdown. Coming into tonight’s encounter, the Penguins will be looking for win number five. Thankfully, it’s pretty clear the Tampa Bay Lightning will have something to say about this as they search for win number three.
Leading the way for the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight is Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov. Kucherov is tied with captain Steven Stamkos for the most goals on the team with 21. Along with his 22 assists, Kucherov leads the Lightning in overall points with a grand total of 43. The Lightning has seven players who have broken the 20 point mark this season, two of which are defensemen.
On the other side of the ice, it is the injured Malkin who leads the way for the Penguins in overall points. Malkin’s 23 goals and 26 assists lead the way with a grand total of 49 points. Right on Malkin’s heels is captain Sidney Crosby. Crosby has scored 20 goals and 25 assists for a total of 45 points.
Speaking of Sidney Crosby, Crosby is on quite the hot streak right now. On Tuesday night, Crosby registered a hat trick which helped lead the Penguins to a 6-5 victory over the Ottawa Senators. As usual, Crosby is someone the Lightning are going to have to be especially mindful of tonight.
If the Tampa Bay Lightning continue to play the way they have over the course of the last few games, they should find themselves in a very comfortable position to bring home the two points tonight. The one thing they cannot do is let off the gas once it has been ignited. A consistent 60 minutes of hockey does wonders for a team’s standing in their division.
Right now, the Tampa Bay Lightning are tied with the Boston Bruins for the second place position in the Atlantic Division. While they do not play tonight, the Bruins will take the ice tomorrow night against the Buffalo Sabres. In other words, if the Lightning wants to maintain their position, the best way to do so is bring home the two points tonight and send the Penguins back to Pittsburgh with a big “L”.
The puck is scheduled to drop at 7:30 p.m. tonight. Make sure to stay connected right here to Bolts By The Bay as we bring you all the latest Tampa Bay Lightning, news, updates, commentary, and more.