End of the homestand, the halfway point of the season: Lightning host Penguins in Saturday matinee (UPDATED)

WHERE St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
MEDIA Sun Sports (Cable), 620 WDAE (radio)

This is game #1 for the Lightning in 2010, it's game #5 of the teams five-game holiday home stand. It's the end of a month-and-a-half stretch (since November 12) where the Bolts had played 26 games in close-fashion, compared to October and early November.

And it 's game #41 for Tampa Bay this season.

41 games, a 15-15-10 record...  And while this team did not exactly rise to the top during most of November and December, they are 4-1-1 in their last six with 9 points, and back in contention in the eastern conference.  That's something to build on in the month ahead before  Something to build on before the league takes a break for the Olympics in February.

Speaking of the Olympics, it's fitting that Ryan Malone gets to face his hometown team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the day after the announcement of his selection to the US Olympic team:

"I think it’ll be a once-and-a-lifetime experience," Malone said. "The level of hockey, obviously, I’m proud to be a part of, and I think everyone’s game will kind of be raised from playing over there."

Of course, some people aren't so happy about being not making their country's Olympic team. Martin St. Louis, who attended Team Canada's camp with teammate Vincent Lecavalier and a slew of other hopefuls, hope's to find peace through playing:

"When you're told that you're not going to participate and be in this experience, it's hard to take. You've just got to accept it, not be happy with it. You have to move on and there's no better way to do that than play in a hockey game instead of being at home and thinking about it."

Here's a suggestion Marty:  Don't just accept it.  Prove them wrong and show them why.  There's been a missing dynamic to St. Louis' game all season - the ability to finish and score.  Despite being near the league lead in assists, Team Canada was lookking for that complete game from the likes of St. Louis and Lecavalier.

Let it motivate you, Marty.  Don't just accept and move on.

The Stanley Cup champion Penguins come into Tampa this afternoon in a bit of a rut.  They've lost their last three games, including being shut out by the Devils 2-0 on December 30th. It's pretty easy to assume they'll look to rebound against a middling Lightning team tht is 4-4-2 in their past ten.

And rebound, they must.  The champs happen to have the league's worst power play unit at current, converting on just 15% of their power play opportunities.  That's pretty weak when you think of the firepower that Pittsburgh has at it's disposal.  Conversely, the penalty kill unit is 10th in the league, killing off 83.6 percent of power plays.  The Penguins are also limiting opponents shots on goal to 28 nightly.

Sidney Crosby leads the team with 48 points (23 goals, 25 assists), with him followed by Evgeni Malkin (38 points, 13 goals, 25 assists). Bill Guerin and Jordan Staal are also contributing greatly to the Pens this season with 28 and 24 points each, respectively.

After today's game, teh Bolts are off until January 6th in Buffalo.  We'll try to have line combos before gametime

Here's an additional note we mentioned to you yesterday about the signing of goalie Jaroslav Janus: He is being assigned to Norfolk. Restart your speculation now.

[Note by John Fontana, 01/02/10 1:15 PM EST ] Brandon Bochenski has been recalled by the Lightning from the Norfolk Admirals. We're not aware what this coincides with (another injury, another transaction) or if he will be playing in today's game. In fact we have not seen any hint or preview of line combos. We'll try to get that to you before the puck drops at 3.

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