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Pittsburgh Penguins at Tampa Bay Lightning: Can the Bolts take down the defending Stanley Cup Champs?

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If Tampa Bay can match the effort level they showed on Monday vs. Washington, things could turn out great for the home squad.

Rxlands

Pittsburgh Penguins at Tampa Bay Lightning: GAME #4

Time: 7:30 Eastern Time

Location: Amalie Arena

Broadcast / Streaming: SUN, ATTSN-PT, TVAS, SN360

Opponent SBNation Site: Pensburgh

Preview:

The Lightning and Penguins will meet for the first of three regular season matchups this year. Tampa Bay will host the Pens next Saturday, October 21, and finish the 3-game season series in Pittsburgh on November 25th.

Tampa Bay hasn’t experienced much success against this club in the regular season in years past, and will look to reverse this trend against a tired Penguins team who just completed a game against the Washington Capitals last night. I’m admittedly surprised that they have a back-to-back scheduled in two different states, but maybe this is some tough love from the NHL’s scheduling department after two Cup-winning seasons.

Tampa Bay currently sits in second place in the Atlantic Division with a record of 2-1-0, potting 13 goals to go along with 11 goals against. Pittsburgh sits in third place in the Metropolitan Division, at 2-1-1, having scored 12 goals, while giving up 17. Recently they had a 4-0 shutout win at home in a rematch of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Most people will remember the shellacking they endured at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks last Thursday, a 10-1 defeat in the Windy City.

As for the Lightning, they are coming off a galvanizing win in which some early puck luck for the Capitals was not enough to secure the win for Ovechkin’s club. Although the sample size is small, that was Tampa Bay’s most complete game by a landslide. Everybody was firing on all cylinders, and I really, really loved the line of Kunitz—Paquette—Callahan (although Paquette has taken two body maintenance days so far this week). If the Lightning can continue to put an effort together like they did on Monday, the NHL is in for a scare.

As an aside, I was not a fan of the 11/7 alignment chosen by the coaching staff. I figured it out after the game, when I realized that Slater Koekkoek had only played 3:09 over 6 shifts. Yes, 3:09.

Comparison Chart:

Tonight’s game will likely be decided by the special teams battle, especially with the dynamic offensive firepower that each of these clubs possesses. The Lightning have only killed off 9 of their 12 penalties (75% efficiency), while the Penguins have only allowed one goal on 15 attempts by their opposition (93% efficiency). It will be up to both clubs to limit the amount of infractions that each commits, especially with the rule change and subsequent crackdown on “slashing.” Neither team, however, has scored a shorthanded goal thus far this season.

Tampa Bay Lightning:

Forward Lines:

Vladislav Namestnikov — Steven Stamkos — Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat — Brayden Point — Yanni Gourde

Alex KillornTyler Johnson

Chris Kunitz — Gabriel Dumont? — Ryan Callahan

Defense Pairings:

Victor Hedman — Jake Dotchin

Mikhail Sergachev — Anton Stralman

Braydon Coburn — Dan Girardi

Slater Koekkoek

Goaltenders:

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Peter Budaj

Lineup Notes:

Per Joe Smith, the Bolts may opt for the 11/7 alignment once again. If this is the case, Koekkoek needs to play more than 3:09. Give the kid at least 8 minutes, but I’m certain that he could handle 10+, if given the chance.

Pittsburgh Penguins:

Forward Lines:

Jake GuentzelSidney CrosbyBryan Rust

Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPhil Kessel

Conor ShearyGreg McKeggPatric Hornqvist

Tom KuhnhacklCarter RowneyRyan Reaves

Defense Pairings:

Brian DumoulinKris Letang

Matt HunwickJustin Schultz

Olli Määttä — Chad Ruhwedel

Goaltenders:

Antti Niemi

Matt Murray

Lineup Notes:

Defenseman Ian Cole, who took a gnarly shot by Roman Josi to the choppers in their win over the weekend, might not play tonight. Chad Ruhwedel could step in and take his place. For those who are big fans of blood, like myself, here’s a picture of Cole’s condition via his Twitter (warning: lots of blood).

I’d imagine Niemi gets the start, considering Murray played in Pittsburgh’s game last night.