The Penguins are making 2 trips to Tampa in the 2017-18 season, and weirdly enough they’re both in the next 10 days, with tonight’s game and then next Saturday 10/21. Both games are also the second day of a back-to-back trip, which means no beach time for the boys in Western Florida this season which WON’T make for a happy Geno.
Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (2-1-1) @ Tampa Bay Lightning (2-1-0)
When: 7:30 PM Eastern, locally televised on AT&T Sports Net
Recent History: This is the first matchup of the year, the Pens swept the season-series with Tampa last year winning 4-3 on 12/10/2016, 6-2 on 1/8/2017 and 5-2 on 3/3/2017. The team’s also recently completed a minor trade with Mark Streit (acquired that day from PHI) sent to Pittsburgh at the 2017 deadline for a 2018 4th round pick. Tampa since traded that pick to Vegas as part of expansion draft considerations. Streit wasn’t a huge piece of the Pens, but does have his name on Lord Stanley.
Old friends: Not gonna lie, this one hurts a little to see 3x Penguin Cup winner Chris Kunitz in a new jersey
Did you know: Both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have identical stat-lines of 47 career points in 34 career games against Tampa? Sid is 16g+31a, Malkin has 23g+24a.
SBN Blog: Raw Charge
Last time out: The Lightning have been inactive since Monday night, in a home game for them where the Caps blew a 2-0 and then a 3-1 lead eventually making way for a 4-3 in overtime win for Tampa, courtesy Brayden Point’s OT goal.
Star of the show: Steven Stamkos is the captain and “face of the team” but a player to watch out for is Nikita Kucherov who leads TB in points (221) since the start of the 2014-15 season, his first full year in the NHL. Kucherov dazzled on Monday night for this highlight reel goal broken down here.
Vladislav Namestnikov - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Yanni Gourde
Palat/Kucherov/Stamkos - Tyler Johnson - Alex Killorn
Chris Kunitz - Gabriel Dumont - Ryan Callahan
Dan Girardi / Victor Hedman
Brayden Coburn / Anton Stralman
Jake Dochtin / Victor Hedman
Stralman OR Girardi / Mikhail Sergachev
—Coach John Cooper is a tinker-er and he experimented with 11F+7D last game out. Seemed to work well to get a lot of different skilled forwards rotating in and out with the Johnson-Killorn line, and also they can ride Hedman (25 minute a night defenseman) to better protect and shield young defensemen in Dochtin and Sergachev.
—Gabriel Dumont is expected to play in place of the injured Cedric Paquette.
Find some legs, get a good start
We all know what happened to the Pens last Thursday night when they played the second game in a row, this time on the road. Same situation this week, which can’t inspire too much confidence among fans right now.
Neither can the play of backup Antti Niemi who tripped out the gates (literally) and before you knew it last week that game was 4-0 and basically all over except the embarrassment.
It will be critical for the team to play well early and not be down 2-3-4 goals by the first TV timeout. The goalie will have to help them out to with a save or two. Lofty goals!
With Ben Bishop gone from Tampa, the Lightning are now Andrei Vasilevskiy’s team, officially. The 23-year old Russian netminder entered the season with 90 NHL regular season games under his belt. His sample early this year hasn’t exactly been great with a 3.66 GAA and .900 save %. He’s given up 3 goals in each of his two wins, and 5 goals in a loss, playing all of his team’s games so far in early in this season.
So, style-wise with two offensive-minded teams and loose defenses and goalies we could be in for a shootout-type of a 5-4, 6-3 kind of game.
Up next: According to a team email, the plans are for the Penguins to have a travel day on Friday, no practice scheduled. They play next on Saturday night at 7:00PM, home against the Florida Panthers.
Question: To stir up a little debate action, predict your Penguins player of the game and maybe I’ll track the leaderboard on it, for a player I choose as the Pensburgh Player of the Game (i.e last night it would have been Patric Hornqvist).