Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (10-10-1, 21 points, 7th place Metropolitan Division) @ Tampa Bay Lightning (10-8-5, 25 points, 5th place Atlantic Division)
When: 7:00 p.m. ET
How to Watch: SportsNet Pittsburgh for the visitors, Bally Sports Sun for the home team, streaming on ESPN+
Pens’ Path Ahead: This is the last Penguin game of November, and December opens up with two games against Philadelphia (home on Saturday night, road next Monday December 4th). The the Pens stay on the road next week to head back to Florida to play these same Lightning a week from tonight before closing out their Floridian circuit next Friday Dec. 8th in Sunrise against the Panthers.
Opponent Track: Tampa has been streaky in the last few weeks - they lost three in a row from Nov 9 -14, won three in a row after that from Nov 16 - 20, fell in OT on Nov 22 and beat Carolina 8-2 last Friday. Since then, however, it’s been back to the downward trend this week losing 4-1 on Monday to Colorado and then 3-1 in Arizona on Tuesday for their latest games.
Season Series: These two teams meet again in one week, same place down in Tampa. The Lightning only make one trip to Pittsburgh and it’s all the way on April 6th to close out the season series.
Hidden Stat: Pens PR gives us this gem: the Penguins have wins in five of their last six games against the Lightning (5-1-0).
Getting to know the Lightning
Lines from Tuesday’s game
Brandon Hagel - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Steven Stamkos - Anthony Cirelli - Mikey Eyssimont
Tanner Jeannot - Nicolas Paul - Tyler Motte
Cole Koepke - Luke Glendening - Austin Watson
Victor Hedman / Nick Perbix
Mikhail Sergachev / Erik Cernak
Calvin de Haan / Taylor Raddysh
Goalies: Andrei Vasilevskiy and Jonas Johansson
Possible scratches: Alex Barre-Boulet, Haydn Fleury
IR: Conor Sheary, Logan Brown
—The salary cap has chipped away at a once championship level team. Tampa still has 4-5 really good forwards, a decent enough third line to go with a couple top defenders and still have one of the best goalies in the world, but they’re a far cry from the team that has all this AND Palat, Killorn, McDonagh, Gourde, Coleman, etc that went to three straight Stanley Cup Finals from 2020-22.
—The Lightning are similar to the Penguins in many ways — both teams have elite, star, skilled players who will do damage in their top 5-6 scorers. But beyond that level of play, there’s a thin bit of quality depth followed by more passengers and hangers on just filling out the roster.
—Tampa’s succeeding without much in net, but that should change. Vasilevskiy played his first game of the season last Friday. Johansson had to play almost all the games for the Lightning in the first two months of the season, a heavy ask for a 28-year old goalie who entered this season with only 28 NHL starts. Now the “Big Cat” is back and ready to take back over and steady the ship in net.
Hot power play, weak 5v5
The Lightning have the inverse issue that the Penguins do - their power play is masking some deficiencies and troubles at 5v5. As coach John Cooper summed up the situation after scoring only one goal in each of the last two games:
Cooper: “Finding that 5-on-5 scoring has been tough of late. I think some of it gets masked because the power play has been really good this year. If you’re not getting power plays in a game, it’s not going to do it for you, so you have to score 5-on-5 in this league. It’s just…— Chris Krenn (@Chris_Krenn) November 29, 2023
Pittsburgh has been good on the PK (to the tune of 86.4%, which ranked 6th in the league on Wednesday) but the old rote hockey cliche of the importance of staying out of the box will have importance in this game.
And now for the Penguins
Infographic courtesy of Pens PR
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Reilly Smith - Evgeni Malkin - Drew O’Connor
Radim Zohorna - Lars Eller - Jansen Harkins
Matt Nieto - Noel Acciari - Jeff Carter
Ryan Graves / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / Erik Karlsson
Ryan Shea / John Ludvig
Goalies: Tristan Jarry and Alex Nedeljkovic
Potential scratches: Vinnie Hinostroza, Dmitri Samorukov
IR: P.O. Joseph (lower body injury), Rickard Rakell (upper body injury), Chad Ruhwedel (lower body injury)
Tonight’s game features the first two NHL teams that have 3 players with 10+ points.
From Pens PR:
Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust each notched their 10th goals of the season on Tuesday night in Nashville. Between Malkin, Rust and Sidney Crosby (10), the Penguins are now one of just two teams in the NHL with three 10-goal scorers on their roster:
Team 10-Goal Scorers Players
Pittsburgh 3 Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Bryan Rust
Tampa Bay 3 Brandon Hagel, Nikita Kucherov, Baryden Point
Eight Teams 2 N/A