Who: Tampa Bay Lightning (2-3-1, 5 points) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (3-0-2, 8 points)
When: 7:00 p.m. eastern
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet locally in Pittsburgh, Bally Sports Sun, ESPN+
Opponent Track: The Pens owe whoever made the schedule a Jake Shake...Like a few others coming into Pittsburgh, Tampa played last night — losing 5-1 in Buffalo (lol). On top of that, tonight will be the last leg of the always dreaded “third game in four days” for TB after the Lightning lost 4-3 in a shootout to Colorado on Saturday night. It’s been a wild ride so far, with 7-6 OT win over Detroit, followed by a 2-1 OT win over Washington for the Bolts after they got beat 6-2 by the Pens on opening night. Penguin fans can probably remember in early seasons after winning the Cup when the team just seemed to be operating at 75% levels of caring most nights, and that kinda looks like the Lightning right now early in this season.
Pens path ahead: Calgary stampedes into town on Thursday and New Jersey makes their way to Pittsburgh on Saturday (Oct 30), as the Pens’ long, long string of home games continues. After this stretch of three games in five days, the Pens then get a nice five days off next week from Oct 31 - Thursday Nov 4th, when the Flyers come to town.
Season Series: Pittsburgh took that emphatic 6-2 empty-net fueled win on opening night in Tampa, the Pens only trip to TB this season. TB/PIT plays tonight, and then not again until March 3rd, again in Pittsburgh to close out the three-game season series.
Random fact: Goaltender Tristan Jarry is 2-1-0 with a 2.34 goals-against average and a .937 save percentage in three career games against the Lightning. Among teams he has started three or more games against, Jarry’s .937 save percentage is his second best versus any one team (Calgary, 4 GP; .943 SV%). [Per Pens PR]
SBN Team Counterpart: Pull up on Raw Charge for the latest news to know about the Lightning.
—The captain Stamkos has gotten off to a hot start this season, he’s missed some time in the last two regular seasons but was a 45-goal scorer in 2018-19, playing the full season and looks to be trying to get back to that level this season.
—Victor Hedman just chews up minutes and produces points.
—It’s early but the grinders haven’t been off to a great start. The veteran Perry has been held off the board in the first six games of the season, and Pat Maroon was a scratch last night for the birth of his ch after a score-less first five games for his season.
—Similarly, some young players Tampa was hoping would take another step haven’t been hot lately either. Mathieu Joseph is 1G+1A and Ross Colton 1G+0A so far early in the season, probably a tick disappointing, especially for Colton who has been getting over a minute per game on the power play.
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Steven Stamkos
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Mathieu Joseph
Alex Barre-Boulet - Ross Colton - Corey Perry
Boris Katchouk - Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare - Taylor Raddysh
Victor Hedman / Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh / Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev / Andrej Sustr
Probable Starting Goalie: Andrei Vasilevskiy
Scratches: Pat Maroon, Frederick Claesson
IR: Nikita Kucherov (LTIR)
—Tampa has lost Kucherov to a groin injury, but expect him back during this regular season, which really is a huge loss for them. Their lineup looks way less imposing than it did on opening night, and losing a 95-100 point type winger for a long time is a massive loss to handle.
—Unfortunately for the Pens, Tampa opted to play backup Brian Elliott last night in Buffalo, preventing Pittsburgh from seeing the ex-Flyer goalie they’ve blasted so much over the years. That clears the starter Vasilevskiy to be ready for the game tonight.
Low-key player profile
Alex Barre-Boulet has had a fun start to the season, he didn’t make Tampa’s team (with salary considerations in play) and ended up on the waiver wire on October 10th. Seattle claimed him the following day so the 24-year old quickly moved across the continent to meet up with the new expansion team, and played in the Kraken’s second and third ever games on 10/14 and 10/16.
Seattle apparently decided they had seen enough and got a bit healthier up front, so they cast Barre-Boulet back on the waiver wire on 10/21, where Tampa was happy to re-claim him in lieu of the Kucherov injury creating a hole in the lineup. In less than two weeks Barre-Boulet got a taste of the movement at the NHL level, and also became the first ever ex-Kraken player.
From the Tampa Bay Times:
“It was a crazy week, obviously,” Barre-Boulet said. “I was getting adjusted to Seattle, (and) it was a great experience, but obviously happy to be back.”
Rookies Taylor Raddysh and Boris Katchouk initially beat out Barre-Boulet for final roster spots with Tampa Bay. The team’s salary cap situation also came into play.
When Seattle’s franchise had to place five players in COVID-19 protocol on the eve of their opener, Barre-Boulet played in two games, logging one assist and just over 17 minutes of action. He also contributed to the franchise’s first win in Nashville.
“It was fun,” he said. “Being a part of that first win was something cool, but I don’t think they have the same goals as here. Here, it’s you want to win the Stanley Cup every year and over there it’s a new franchise and they don’t know what to really expect so far, so it’s great being back but I had a great time over there.”
As players returned to the Kraken, the Lightning’s own Nikita Kucherov landed on long-term injured reserve. He cannot return before Nov. 13 and could be out longer. A hole in the team’s first line means Barre-Boulet has a shot to make an impact.
Having experience skating with Ondrej Palat and Brayden Point on the top line is certainly an asset; he skated with them in 12 games last season. He also has a knack for finding the back of the net — ranking among the AHL’s top six scorers in his first two seasons with Syracuse — and his speed is key.
And now for the Pens..
Monday Practice Lines
Jake Guentzel - Evan Rodrigues - Kasperi Kapanen
Jason Zucker - Drew O’Connor - Danton Heinen
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brock McGinn
Dominik Simon - Brian Boyle - Sam Lafferty
Brian Dumoulin / John Marino
Marcus Pettersson / Mark Friedman
Mike Matheson / Chad Ruhwedel
Goalie: Tristan Jarry
Scratches: Kasper Bjorkqvist (healthy), Jeff Carter (COVID protocol), Kris Letang (COVID protocol), Juuso Riikola (healthy)
IR: Evgeni Malkin (knee), Bryan Rust (week-to-week injury), Sidney Crosby (wrist)
—The Pens recalled Kasper Bjorkqvist from the AHL yesterday afternoon, as the team only had 12 healthy forwards with Carter joining the COVID list. It wasn’t immediately announced if Carter or Letang have left the 23-man roster to COVID/IR as a result. The team earlier called up Juuso Riikola under similar auspices to give them a depth player after Letang ended up on the list.
What is missing, but what still remains
Here’s a great stat from the Pens, about the career totals of players currently out of the lineup, versus the NHL totals of players who played on Saturday.
This past Saturday, the Penguins took down the Maple Leafs, 7-1, without Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Bryan Rust and Jeff Carter. Between those five players, the Penguins were without a combined 4,310 regular-season games, 1,545 goals, 2,449 assists and 3,994 points worth of experience/production, as well as a combined 13 Stanley Cups and 23 NHL All-Star Game selections. Below is a comparison of the career production from Pittsburgh’s five injured players versus the 18 skaters that dressed on Oct. 23 versus Toronto:
Player Group GP G A PTS
5 players injured vs. TOR 4,310 1,545 2,449 3,994
18 skaters that dressed vs. TOR 4,629 752 1,015 1,767
The Penguins have scored 23 goals over its first five games of the season despite all of the constant lineup shuffling and injuries. Per NHL PR, the 2021-22 campaign marks the franchise’s highest goal total through the first five games of a season since the Mario Lemieux-led Penguins in 1992-93 (24).