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Back-to-backup; Tampa Bay Lightning at Pittsburgh Penguins preview

The Bolts start 2015 with the third and final regular-season meeting between them and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

:  CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
When: 7 PM EST | Tickets: Check availability
Media: Sun Sports (cable) | 970 AM WFLA (radio) | Twitter Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: Pensburgh, The Pensblog, Confessions of a Hockey Fanatic

In a way, the Tampa Bay Lightning will bestow a gift on the Washington Capitals tonight. You can look at it as the Bolts token award towards the Caps for their victory yesterday in the 2015 NHL Winter Classic... But this potential gift was written at one point in time well before now.

The Lightning play the Pittsburgh Penguins for the third and final time during the regular season, and the Pens are scheduled to play the Capitals tomorrow night as the flip-side game of their back-to-back set.

If the Bolts win or lose, they still wear down Pittsburgh just a notch and make them (potentially) easier to beat for the Caps as long as they come to play.

So, Washington, you're welcome.

EDIT: OK, so I screwed up reading the schedule pretty damned good here. The Penguins face the Montreal Canadiens tomorrow, not the Washington Capitals.  And, honestly, that changes the entire need for tomorrow to change, and the drive for tonight to be the same... The Habs get the Penguins A-goalie while we need to get by Goalike-B. --JF

Now can the Lightning truly be thankful in any way because of this?  Thomas Greiss (who was diagnosed with the mumps last week) is supposed to start in net for the Penguins tonight, with Marc-Andre Fleury likely getting the start tomorrow. Teammate Steve Downie, who was diagnosed at the same time as Greiss, will possibly return to the Pens lineup tonight.

They're being treated, likely on medication, which is the same for Sidney Crosby who is also back in the lineup for the Penguins. Things are moving forward, although the idea the Bolts are playing the team that seems hardest hit by the mumps still isn't thrilling.

Greiss has played in 7 of the Penguins 37 games this season and has gone 3-2-2 with a sound 2.52 GAA and .919 save percentage. He'll be opposite Ben Bishop, who didn't get through his last start at CONSOL Energy Center due to injury. He also missed his last starting opportunity - the 5-1 win over Buffalo on New Year's Eve - after being banged up during the previous game (win) against the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Bish's save percentage of .914 is lower than what Greiss is posting, but the Bolts have been more than sound (18-6-2) when he starts.

Defenseman Jason Garrison is expected back in the lineup tonight. How this is going to affect defensive pairings is unclear. He had missed the past four games with his undisclosed injury. Seeing he's a lefty defenseman, his return to the lineup will translate into either Mark Barberio or Nikita Nesterov being scratched from the lineup. Elsewhere on the blue line, Radko Gudas remains out of action but he told reporters today that he hopes to be back in the lineup against the Ottawa Senators on Sunday.

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