Time: 7:00 pm Eastern Time
Location: Amalie Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: ESPN+, BSSUN, TVAS
Opponent SBNation Site: Pensburgh
The Tampa Bay Lightning are in the middle of their three-game homestand, which ends tomorrow with the game against the Detroit Red Wings. The Bolts have rolled to five straight wins and leapfrogged the Florida Panthers in the standings — a team which looked like an unstoppable juggernaut not a long time ago, destroying every opponent on their way, including the Lightning.
Nikita Kucherov has been a real catalyst of the recent Lightning’s results. Despite missing more than half of the season, the Russian forward had an immediate impact when he returned with 26 points in 17 games he’s currently leading the NHL in points per game rate and already entered top-200 players in the league in points amongst the players who played about 20 games more on the average. He also recorded two points (one goal and one assist) in each of his previous four games. Overall, 11 out of 17 games Kucherov played this season were multipoint games.
Another player who has been very hot, not only recently, but the whole season in overall is Steven Stamkos. The Lightning’s captain recorded six goals in five previous games and currently is the only Lightning’s player in top-20 in total points in the NHL. His seven game-winning goals also rank second in the league, proving how crucial Stamkos’ impact is for his team.
Tonight the Lightning are ending their season series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. So far the series is even at 1-1: the Penguins beat the Bolts 6-2 in season opener, but the Bolts took revenge two weeks later, defeating the opponent 5-1 in Pittsburgh.
After struggling during the first month of the regular season, the Pens massively improved in November, posting a 10-game winning streak throughout December. The Penguins pretty quickly occupied a playoff spot, currently sitting at the second position in the Metropolitan Division, trailing only the Carolina Hurricanes by five points. Their most recent record, hasn’t been as impressive as they’ve lost three out of their last five games.
As much as Nikita Kucherov’s return was significant for the Bolts, the Pens improved their results after the return of Sidney Crosby. The 34-year-old former Hart Trophy winner missed the first weeks of the regular season, but was very impactful since that moment, scoring 50 points in 43 games. The Pens still rely a lot on their veterans as three out of six top scorers are players older than 30. Even Evgeni Malkin, who missed half of the season, is at point-per-game rate now.
Tampa Bay Lightning Projected Lines
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Steven Stamkos - Mathieu Joseph
Pat Maroon - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Corey Perry
Ross Colton - Anthony Cirelli - Taylor Raddysh
Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev - Cal Foote
Pittsburgh Penguins Projected Lines
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Bryan Rust
Danton Heinen - Evgeni Malkin - Kasperi Kapanen
Brock McGinn - Jeff Carter - Evan Rodrigues
Zach Aston-Reese - Brian Boyle - Dominik Simon
Brian Dumoilin - Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson - John Marino
Mark Friedman - Chad Ruhwedel