End of the first half; Lightning at Pittsburgh Penguins preview

WHERE: CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable), 620 WDAE (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Pensburgh, The Pensblog

Dwayne Roloson is supposed to start in net tonight for Tampa Bay, again, after his 34-save shutout effort last night in Washington DC. To me, that's a big request for a 41-year-old. That also tells you how little I know about the guy as a competitor. I'd appreciate Islander fans chiming in on Dwayne's stamina/vitality...

But really, after last night... Who would you rather have between the pipes going into Pittsburgh?

yes, the Bolts are playing the second game of their Winter Classic road trip.... They'll be facing a rested Pens team who did not have to return to action last night.

And I don't expect a single ounce of rust from the Penguins machine.

This game marks the absolute half-way point of the season for the Lightning. Game 41. Can you remember where this team was at this point last year? Do you even want to recollect? Forget the sideshow of ownership (hello Oren, Len ) and think about the inconsistency of the team that was on ice.

The Bolts were playing the Penguins back at Times Palace last season at game 41. I can't say I remembered that (but I thought it was a noteworthy coincidence). I can say that I kept waiting for the team to turn the corner, and games like that one (a 3-1 victory over the reeling Pens) made me think they had done just that.

Really, though, if you can't recollect the quirks of last season at the mid-way point, I encourage you to take a trip down memory lane. The oddities, the inconsistencies, the frustrations, and the promise that they were thisclose to something special.

I think, no matter where this team ends up after the conclusion of their season, we've seen something special. A grand turnaround that fans can only hope is just the start.

What does this have to do with tonight's hockey game? Well, um, nothing much, really.

The Bolts are 9-1-1 in their past 11, they are facing a Penguins team that lost the Winter Classic and is 5-4-1 in their past ten. Don't let that fool you, though. They're second place in the Atlantic division, tied in points with division leading and Eastern Conference leading Philadelphia.

Sidney Crosby may lead the league in points with 65, nine more than second place Steven Stamkos... But 2nd and 3rd place are owned by the Lightning. Stamkos, as I said, and then Martin St. Louis, who moved into 3rd with his goal last night in Washington. He's got 51 points on the year, and the duo has 106 points between them (48 goals, 59 assists).

While the Lightning power play is deflating (22.7% conversion rate, tied with the Red Wings for 4th in the NHL), I'm surprised to see the high-powered Pens with an outright enigmatic 16.5% conversion rate. They're 22nd in the league with the man advantage. Pittsburgh surely makes up for that shortcoming by not allowing much offense when they are down a man. The Pens are 2nd in the league with a 87.1 penalty kill rate. That's two points better than the Lightning (85.2) who are now sixth in the league on the PK.

Other Previews

Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview

Bolts 2 Cup

Full game coverage on SB Nation

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