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Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Pittsburgh Penguins preview: A potential playoff rehearsal

Jan Rutta is week-to-week due to a lower body injury.

Pittsburgh Penguins v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Scott Audette /NHLI via Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning vs Pittsburgh Penguins Game 54

Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time

Location: Amalie Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: Fox Sun

Opponent SBNation Site: Pensburgh

Preview:

The Tampa Bay Lightning start a series of games against the Metropolitan division teams tonight. In a span of six days, the Bolts will face the New York Islanders, the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Pittsburgh Penguins. During that time, they will play the Penguins twice, including tonight’s game at Amalie Arena.

Jan Rutta is currently listed as week to week due to a lower body injury he suffered against the Golden Knights in the last game. The coaching staff is hopeful that he won’t be out long term, but the time of his return isn’t determined yet. In Rutta’s absence, Mikhail Sergachev was promoted to the first pair on Wednesday’s practice. According to Lightning assistant coach Todd Richards, they haven’t decided yet if Luke Schenn or Braydon Coburn will take Rutta’s spot tonight. But based on their play this season, Coburn seems to be closer to the lineup. Compared to Jan Rutta’s numbers, Coburn doesn’t look strong although Rutta is probably benefiting from playing with Victor Hedman most of the time.

As expected, the Lightning have settled down after the All-Star break in terms of expected goals. The team has posted a positive xG rate just in two games. However, their point streak is continuing due to the productivity of the top lines and solid goaltending by both Vasilevskiy and McElhinney.

At this moment, the Lightning and the Penguins have the same amount of standings points (Pittsburgh has one game in hand) and both teams are basically locks for the Playoffs. The Penguins did this despite losing a lot of key players to injuries during the season. Per NHLInjuryViz, they’ve lost approximately 4.027 of WAR, which is the highest in the league. Some of their players like Jack Guentzel and Brian Dumoulin are still still missing, but at least they have Sidney Crosby back in the lineup.

In the last game between these two teams, the Bolts defeated the Pens 3-2, despite trailing after two periods and a strong performance by Tristan Jarry, who stopped 45 of 48 shots by the Lightning.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forward Lines

Steven Stamkos - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

Ondrej Palat - Anthony Cirelli - Tyler Johnson

Alex Killorn - Cedric Paquette - Patrick Maroon

Carter Verhaeghe - Mitchell Stephens - Yanni Gourde

Defense Pairings

Victor Hedman - Mikhail Sergachev

Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak

Braydon Coburn - Kevin Shattenkirk

Injuries: Jan Rutta

Scratches: Luke Schenn

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Curtis McElhinney

Pittsburgh Penguins

Forward Lines

Jared McCann - Sidney Crosby - Dominik Simon

Bryan Rust - Evgeni Malkin - Patric Hornqvist

Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brandon Tanev

Andrew Agozzino - Sam Lafferty - Anthony Angello

Defense Pairings

Jack Johnson - Kris Letang

Marcus Pettersson - John Marino

Chad Ruhwedel - Justin Schultz

Goaltenders

Tristan Jarry

Matt Murray

Injuries: Nick Bjugstad, Jack Guentzel, Brian Dumoulin, Dominik Kahun