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HAZMAT holidays! Tampa Bay Lightning versus Pittsburgh Penguins preview

Describing the Pittsburgh Penguins at the moment in a simple and straight fashion, it sucks being sick during the holidays but this is ridiculous.

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Daniel Kubus/Getty Images


Where:  Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida
When: 7:30 PM EST | Tickets: Check availability
Media: Sun Sports (cable) | (radio) | Twitter Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: PensburghPensblogConfessions of a Hockey Fanatic

Last week in Pittsburgh, the Tampa Bay Lightning got caught up in the Sidney Crosby sideshow as the Penguins team captain was diagnosed with the mumps. That same day, Beau Bennett was being watched to see if he, too, was infected (he was). Since that time, Marc-Andre Fleury has been tested for the disease (negative), Christian Ehrhoff and Olli Maatta have both contracted it, and three players flew back to Pittsburgh yesterday to be tested for the disease, including former Lightning forward Steve Downie.

Doesn't it make you happy to know the Bolts are playing the Pens for the second time in eight days, and will play them yet again just after the new year?

Illness spreads like wildfire in this sport and trainers are well aware of that... It still is nerve-wracking to know your team has to play against another franchise that's being inundated by a formidable illness. It was pointed out in last week's game notes that Tampa Bay players have had blood work done and received booster shots accordingly where necessary. But now they've got to play the games regardless of what viral bodies inhabit individual players. The question the Lightning face going against the sickly Pens is if they can avoid infection or not, and what effect the illness will have on the roster if and when it rears its ugly head.

Meanwhile, back at the Festivus pole, Ben Bishop wasn't one of the goalies of record at the morning skate; it was Evgeni Nabokov and Andrei Vasilevskiy between the pipes. Ben did see time on ice. I would not count him out for tonight but it's wiser not to c omit to a starter at this point unless Cooper names them directly.

For the record, it was Andrei Vasilevskiy off the ice first this morning.

Defensman Jason Garrison was missing from the morning skate. There was no word if it was a body maintenance day or some other ailment that kept him out of drills.

Another line shift has taken place in an attempt to jump start the Bolts offensive output; Brett Connolly (who has been seeing time in the bottom-six for the most part) jumps up to the first line with Jonathan Drouin and Steven Stamkos while Ryan Callahan descends to the third line, playing with Alex Killorn and Valtteri Filppula. Really, I don't know if line-combos have to do with the Bolts lack of scoring lately as so much a possession-over-shooting mentality; you can't simply pass while fearing possession loss by way of a shot on goal. This isn't putting down the line combinations that are in play now (which all pique interest) but it is saying lines are moot if the team won't put shots on net.

The Penguins are here on the flip side of back-to-back games. They lost in the shootout last night in Sunrise to the Panthers. The back-to-back status as well as the illness-depleted lineup does paint this game as an opportunity for the Lightning, but one that comes with illness risk.

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