When: 7:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in the Pittsburgh viewing area, Sun Sports in Florida, TVAS in Canada
Opponent Track: The Lightning are rolling, when they beat the Pens last week it was win number four in a row. A 3-1 win on Saturday night against NYI made it five straight W’s and last night they made it six in a row in Columbus. Hopefully this being the second part of a back-to-back and the third game in four days maybe it’ll slow them down a bit? Feels like wishful thinking for a group that has won 19 of the last 22 games.
Item to know: Tonight is “Miracle on Ice” night as the Pens recognize the 40th anniversary of the USA Hockey team’s upset of the Russians in the Olympics. Captain of that team Mike Eruzione and former Pens’ general manager Craig Patrick (an assistant coach on that USA team) will be on-hand for the ceremonial opening puck drop.
Pens path ahead: Home cookin’ is here , with today being game one of four straight at PPG Paints. Montreal comes to town on Friday, then it’s Detroit on Sunday afternoon and Toronto next Tuesday Feb 18th for the immediate future. In theory and on paper that should be good, lots of home games where the Pens are strong, especially with MTL+DET not exactly being juggernauts this season.
Season Series: This is game three of the PIT/TB set. Tampa prevailed 3-2 back in late October. That game might be memorable as Kris Letang quite nearly scored a literal last second game-tying goal, but video review could not confirm the puck was over the line and in time. Last week was another close one, the Pens fell 4-2 in Tampa after an empty net goal. This is the last game of the regular season set, and the only TB trip to Pittsburgh on the year.
Recent History: The Pens have now lost five straight games to Tampa, who have been very tough to beat over the course of the last two regular seasons.
SBN Team Counterpart: For your TB news you have to check out Raw Charge.
Tale of the tape
—Rinse and repeat from last week, two very strong teams squaring off. But for as good as the Pens are, Tampa has been performing just a little bit better in nearly every major category that we track.
—The Pens’ PK has killed 12 straight opponent’s power plays and is clicking at a 92.3% success rate since January 16th. Tampa isn’t far behind with their PK in the same span, killing 88.5% of their opponent’s power plays.
—Tampa is the only current team to be top 5 in goals for AND goals against. The Pens aren’t terribly far from joining them.
Player Stats at a Glance
—Goal scorers last week for TB against the Pens were Sergachev, Stamkos, Cirelli and Kucherov (EN). Hedman had three assists.
—The Lightning defense is certainly something to watch. They’ve got a lot of size and muscle and move the puck well.
Possible Lines (based on Monday game)
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Tyler Johnson
Pat Maroon - Cedric Paquette - Mathieu Joseph
Carter Verhaeghe - Mitchell Stephens - Yanni Gourde
Victor Hedman / Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev / Kevin Shattenkirk
Braydon Coburn / Luke Schenn
Expected starting goalie: Andrei Vasilevskiy
Expected Scratches: Steven Stamoks (injured) Ryan McDonagh (injured), Cameron Gaunce (healthy)
Injured Reserve: Jan Rutta
—Stamkos did not play last night and is day to day with a lower body injury suffered Saturday night. It would seem the Pens wil catch a break here since Stamkos was not with the team last night in Columbus and said to not be on the road trip (which ends today for Tampa).
—Defensively Tampa has been getting dinged up too as of late. Rutta got hurt the game prior to playing the Pens last week and McDonagh got hurt during the Pens’ game. That will mean asking a little more of players like Cernak, Sergachev and Shattenkirk and pushes a replacement-level third pair into the game.
—There will be no break caught in net, though. Backup Curtis McElhinney played last night against CBJ, clearing the way for Vasilevskiy to get back in the crease for tonight’s game against the Pens. Vasilevskiy stopped 29/31 shots against Pittsburgh last week.
—Joseph did not play last week against the Pens, he’s in the lineup because of the Stamkos injury. Joseph is the older brother of Pittsburgh prospect Pierre-Olivier Joseph.
And now for the Pens..
Potential Lines (based on projection)
Jason Zucker - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist
Jared McCann - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brandon Tanev
Dominik Simon - Sam Lafferty - Anthony Angello
Jack Johnson/ Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / Justin Schultz
Juuso Riikola / Chad Ruhwedel
Expected starting goalie: ?
Expected scratches: Dominik Kahun (concussion), Andrew Agozzino (healthy), John Marino (injury)
Injured Reserve: Nick Bjugstad (core muscle surgery), Brian Dumoulin (ankle surgery), Jake Guentzel (shoulder)
—Well, well, well. Here we go. The Pens are hoping Zucker will be arriving in time to play tonight, so let the games begin! Fare thee well, Alex Galchenyuk.
—No official word or indication as of yet for the Pens’ goalie. Matt Murray stopped 25/28 last week against Tampa in the loss, not bad but not a winning effort. Tristan Jarry was very strong in Florida on Saturday stopping 33/35 shots in the win, so perhaps it makes sense to go back to Jarry this time against Tampa.