Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (6-4-0, 12 points, tied-2nd place Metropolitan Division) @ Tampa Bay Lightning (4-3-1, 9 points, tied-5th place Atlantic Division)
When: 8:00 p.m.
How to Watch: National game on NBCSN
Opponent Track: Tampa hasn’t quite been the juggernaut they were in 2018-19. They’ve been kind of up and down — capable of blowing the doors off a talented team like Toronto (which they did 7-3 back on Oct. 10th) but also capable of losing 4-2 to Ottawa (which they also did, and is Ottawa’s only win of the season). Tampa enters tonight not having played in the last three days, and lost their last game 6-2 at home against Colorado on Saturday in their last game.
Pens path ahead: The Pens are staying south after this one, eventually in route to Dallas for a game against the Stars on Saturday night. The Pens then come back to Pittsburgh and prep for their first game of the season against Philly next Tuesday night.
Season Series: The Pens actually return to Tampa again (Feb. 6th) before the Lightning’s lone game of the season in Pittsburgh (Feb 11th) to complete the season series this year.
Recent history: Like most of the league, the Pens didn’t fare well against TB last year, going just 1-2 in the three games. One aspect to watch: Tampa’s power play scored on an absurd 5 of 10 total power plays vs. Pittsburgh last season. Probably a good idea to stay out of the box as much as possible tonight!
SBN Team Counterpart: Check out our pals at Raw Charge for the perspective from the other side
Tale of the Tape
—Lots of shots, lots of goals for both sides involved in the Tampa games. They have a good power play and bad PK so far this year too, leading to even more goals.
—Pens power play now at 1 for their last 12 in the last four games.
Player Stats at a Glance
—Another game against a Florida team, another game seeing a superstar Russian goalie struggling early in the season. A bit odd to see Andrei Vasilevskiy with a sub-.900% save percentage and GAA above 3. He’s still managed to win four of six starts.
—After being cast-off by the Rangers as a buyout, Kevin Shattenkirk has fit in great as a “trash heap” signing at one year and $1.75 million. But he’s done well early, and ironically enough on a team stacked with high salaries and then lots of bargain players, Shattenkirk carries the third highest defensive cap hit on the team this season.
—Steven Stamkos is already starting season #12 as an NHL player. Time is just flying, isn’t it? Stamkos is at 397 career NHL goals.
Possible Lines (based on Tuesday practice)
Steven Stamkos - Tyler Johnson - Mathieu Joseph
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Yanni Gourde
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Nikita Kucherov
Patrick Maroon - Cedric Paquette - Luke Witkowski
Victor Hedman / Erik Cernak
Ryan McDonagh / Kevin Shattenkirk
Braydon Coburn / Mikhail Sergachev
Expected scratches: Luke Witkowski, Jan Rutta, Carter Verhaeghe
Injured reserve: none
—Interesting ideas throughout the top-9 forward group. They almost look like the 2016 Pens’ strategy of an elite star player (Stamkos, Point, Kucherov playing the roles of Crosby, Malkin and Kessel) split across three different lines. For the time being at least, earlier in the year they had all three on the same line in a turbo-loaded grouping.
—Guys like Cirelli and Cernak and Gourde improving out of no where into key contributors has been a big reason for Tampa’s success.
—Pain in the neck and lowkey scumbag Cedric Paquette will be making his return from injury for this game. He’s under my skin already.
Mathieu Joseph getting more involved
Thought this was pretty cool, with some talent splits that Tampa is trying, some of their players are getting chances to play with stars. One of them is Mathieu Joseph. If the name “Joseph” sounds familiar, it’s because he’s the brother of Penguin prospect Pierre-Olivier, whom the Pens acquired in the Kessel trade.
“[Cooper] is giving me a little bit more of a role this year, a little bit more confidence. For sure, I appreciate that.”— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) October 22, 2019
Practice day | Mathieu Joseph: pic.twitter.com/GO82RiMLUQ
And now for the Pens..
That fudge unreal bud?
Infographic courtesy of the Penguins:
Potential Lines (Based on Tuesday game)
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Dominik Simon
Dominik Kahun - Jared McCann - Patric Hornqvist
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brandon Tanev
Adam Johnson - Joseph Blandisi - Sam Lafferty
John Marino / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / Justin Schultz
Jack Johnson / Erik Gudbranson
Expected scratches: Chad Ruhwedel (healthy), Juuso Riikola (healthy)
Injured: Bryan Rust (broken hand, LTIR), Evgeni Malkin (lower body injury, IR) Nick Bjugstad (lower body injury, IR), Alex Galchenyuk (lower body injury, IR), Brian Dumoulin (lower body injury, IR)
—We’ll have to see about any changes or movement but may not know for sure until closer to game time. Given how Sullivan doesn’t like morning skates and it’s a back-to-back, there’s likely to be almost no players on the ice up until game time.