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Tampa Bay Lightning at Pittsburgh Penguins preview: Bolts face upgraded Pens following Zucker trade

Potential ECF preview if you’re into that sort of thing.

NHL: FEB 06 Penguins at Lightning
TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 06: Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) tracks the puck in the 3rd period of the NHL game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning on February 06, 2020 at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL.
Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning @ Pittsburgh Penguins: Game #57
Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: PPG Paints Arena - Pittsburgh, Penn
Broadcast/Streaming: Fox Sports SUN
Opponent SBNation Site: Pensburgh

On Monday night, Bob McKenzie broke the news that the Pittsburgh Penguins had acquired Jason Zucker from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Alex Galchenyuk, defense prospect Calen Addison, and a 2020 first round pick.

Zucker is under contract for this and three more years, and is very likely the most underrated goal scorer in the NHL. His possession driving numbers are wild and if he was on a team that could help him capitalize on the high quality chances he provides, he would have much better counting stats.

He’s on that team now and that’s terrifying, especially considering the Penguins are already a top-five team in the league.

The last time these two teams met last week, the Lightning came out on top with a 4-2 victory. Since then, the rosters at the top have had some significant changes. Obviously, Zucker will slot right into the top-six with either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. However, for the Lightning, Steven Stamkos remains listed as day-to-day with an injury and will likely miss tonight’s game.

The Penguins are coming into this game as the much more rested team, and are at home, so the challenge for the Lightning will be that much greater. One thing the Lightning do have in their favour is that Andrei Vasilevskiy will be in net after getting two full days off. Curtis McElhinney played the first half of the back-to-back last night, beating the Blue Jackets in overtime.

Last night in Columbus, the Lightning very much looked like they had one line that could score and three that could more-or-less tread water and play the system that is advantageous to creating offense. The shot map for the Lightning was not encouraging, as most of the shots taken came from the perimeter. Plus, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Mikhail Sergachev, and Victor Hedman were the only four players to be involved in the scoring in that game. Against the Penguins, the Lightning really need to be multiple lines deep.

Then again, maybe you *can* win with a dominant top line and elite goaltender.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Based on the last game

Forward Lines

Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Tyler Johnson
Patrick Maroon - Cedric Paquette - Mathieu Joseph
Carter Verhaeghe - Mitchell Stephens - Yanni Gourde
Injured: Steven Stamkos

Defense Pairings

Victor Hedman - Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev - Kevin Shattenkirk
Braydon Coburn - Luke Schenn
Injured: Jan Rutta, Ryan McDonagh
Scratched: Cameron Gaunce


Curtis McElhinney
Andrei Vasilevskiy

Pittsburgh Penguins

Projected Lines via Pensburgh


Jason Zucker - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist
Jared McCann - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brandon Tanev
Dominik Simon - Sam Lafferty - Anthony Angello
Injured: Nick Bjugstad, Jake Guentzel, Dominik Kahun
Scratched: Andrew Agozzino


Jack Johnson - Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson - Justin Schultz
Juuso Riikola - Chad Ruhwedel
Injured: Brian Dumoulin, John Marino


Matt Murray
Tristan Jarry

The Penguins starter is TBD.