The Bolt, are trying to keep their playoff hopes alive and have kept pace in the east East with Friday's remarkable win against the Washingotn Capitals. "Remarkable" because the team did it while playing the second of back-to-back games, and while the team was without the likes of Mattias Ohlund and Ryan Malone.
Oh, yeah, and they took on the current beast-of-the-East, the Washingotn Capitals, and came out with two points after they fell to the likes of the Toronto Maple Leafs (the least-of-the-East) the night before.
And now the Lightning face the Eastern Conference's second ranked team, the reigning Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. The Lightning need to keep their game raised in this afternoon's battle - on par and above their Friday night effort... And they need to find more consistency in keeping that level of play through the last month of the regular season.
The Penguins have had their own problems with consistency this season, and are coming off a loss to the Devils on Friday night. They'll be looking to rebound with easy pickings in Tampa... But then again? That's what I figured about last time these two teams met up just after new-years. The Lightning ended up winning that contest 3-1 and the Penguins would continue on a losing torrent the next few games before rightign the ship.
With the firepower that the Penguins boast, it's odd to note they are ranked 21st in the NHLon the power play (17.2%) while the Lightning are 11th (19.2%). The Pens have the 9th ranked penalty kill (83.3 %) as to the Lightning's 22nd ranked PK unit (80.3%). All in all, these teams matchup evenly on special teams -- a strength versus strength, a weakness versus weakness. It may very well render special teams play moot.
The teams are also quite even with the goals-against per game, the Lightnign are ranked 22nd (2.98 goals allowed per game) while the Pens are ranked 21st in the league (2.89 goals allowed). The diference comes down to offensive output at even strenth, where the Pens have the clear advantage.
The focus will be on star Sidney Crosby and blossoming Steven Stamkos, who had his eighteen game point streak put to rest on Friday. If Pittsburg focuses on stopping Stamkos, it opens up the game for the rest of the Lightning offense much like it did on Friday.
Zenon Konopka will again be out for the Lightning while Ohlund and Malone remain questionable.