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Tampa Bay Lightning at Pittsburgh Penguins preview: Bolts look to bounce back

The Lightning try to end a two-game losing streak.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Lightning at Pittsburgh Penguins: Game 19

Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: PPG Paints Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: SunS, ATTP

Opponent SBNation Site: Pensburgh

Preview:

The Lightning go to Pittsburgh tonight to play the Penguins. The Bolts will be hoping for a different outcome than Tuesday night’s game when they thoroughly outplayed the Sabres but still lost thanks to an outstanding game in net from Carter Hutton and a few untimely shots off the post.

For the first time this season, the Lightning have lost back to back games in regulation. It started with a disappointing third period collapse against the Senators and continued with the loss to the Sabres. Looking just at 5v5 numbers, the Lightning were probably the better team in both games but goaltending determined the outcomes. Allowing four goals after going up 4-2 cost them against Ottawa and Hutton stole the show in Buffalo.

The Pens enter the game with two big storylines. The first is Sidney Crosby. He missed practice yesterday with an upper-body injury. The team didn’t provide any additional information. The team is already missing Derrick Brassard and has struggled to get much contribution from their depth players. If Crosby misses the game, that will put even more pressure on Evgeni Malkin to carry the load.

That lack of secondary production is the reason for the second storyline. Yesterday, General Manager Jim Rutherford signed a three-year extension and then immediately made a move to shake up the roster. He sent 30 year-old speedster Carl Hagelin to Los Angeles in exchange for 26 year-old Tanner Pearson. Pearson could make his debut for the Pens tonight.

The Lightning have some injury issues of their own with the news that Andrei Vasilevskiy will miss time with a fractured foot and Ondrej Palat still out for several more weeks. Adam Erne returned last game in Buffalo and claimed his spot on the fourth line. Anton Stralman missed the game but based on yesterday’s practice, might be back tonight. If that’s the case, look for Erik Cernak to head back to Syracuse so that he can be available to the Crunch this weekend.

Comparison chart:

The Pens have been a surprisingly average team so far this season. They’ve been better over the last ten games but even in that stretch, their defensive metrics have been poor. They have the offense to outscore those problems but that’s not the profile the coaches will want to see long term.

The Lightning continue to be one of the better teams in the league in terms of 5v5 play. The one area of weakness is the goaltending. Through 18 games, the team is creeping toward the “bad” territory on the chart. The team has done an excellent job of limiting dangerous chances against but so far, the netminders haven’t been able to take full advantage of that.

On special teams, the Lightning are coming back to the pack. The penalty kill that started out so dominant has come back toward league average over the last ten games. And the goaltending on the penalty kill has exacerbated that problem. The power play has also started to slide. The team is outshooting some of their problems but even this much shooting talent won’t overcome the low quality shot generation over the last ten games.

Tonight is a matchup between two teams that people generally think of as being the best in the NHL. But so far this season, only the Lightning have lived up to that reputation. Even so, the Penguins are always dangerous. They have too much talent to continue to play the way they have to start the season.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

J.T. Miller - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov

Yanni Gourde - Brayden Point - Tyler Johnson

Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Mathieu Joseph

Adam Erne - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan

Danick Martel - Ondrej Palat (injured)

Defense Pairings

Victor Hedman - Dan Girardi

Ryan McDonagh - Anton Stralman

Braydon Coburn - Mikhail Sergachev

Slater Koekkoek - Erik Cernak

Goaltenders

Louis Domingue

Andrei Vasilevskiy (injured)

Opponent lines

Forward Lines

Dominik Simon - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust

Tanner Pearson - Evgeni Malkin - Patric Hornqvist

Jake Guentzel - Riley Sheahan - Phil Kessel

Garrett Wilson - Matt Cullen - Daniel Sprong

Defense Pairings

Jack Johnson - Kris Letang

Brian Dumoulin - Chad Ruhwedel

Olli Maata - Jamie Oleksiak

Goalies

Matt Murray

Casey DeSmith