Season series finale; Tampa Bay Lightning versus Pittsburgh Penguins preview

The Bolts and Penguins meet up in another NBC Sports Net telecast; Stamkos and St. Louis chase hardware, but it's not going to be easy...

WHERE: Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
WHEN: EDT | | TICKETS: Check Availability
MEDIA: NBC Sports Net, TSN (cable), 970 WFLA (radio)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Pensburgh, The Pensblog

The third and final meeting of the season between the Lightning and the Penguins, the third and final meeting of the Lightning and the Penguins airing on NBC Sports Network. Perhaps it's the third and final meeting between the Lightning and the Penguins (airing on NBC Sports Network) that you employ MishMute. Regardless, the Lightning faces the dominant, readying-for-the-playoff Penguins.

Only if you hadn't paid much attention to news, rumors and trade deadline movement would you have missed the Pens bolstering their roster with rental players such as Brendan Morrow, Jussi Jokinen, Doug Murray, and Jarome Iginla...

The Pens have clinched the Atlantic division (where they lead by 16 points over the 2nd place New York Islanders). They've also lost Sidney Crosby to a broken jaw. He'll be back for the playoffs (if not sooner) but it puts his would-be Art Ross trophy up for grabs in the NHL. The guys closing in on Crosby's league-leading 56 points are fellows like Crosby teammate Chris Kunitz (46 points); Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane (46 points) and the Lightning's own Martin St. Louis (49 points) and Steven Stamkos (50 points).

While Stamkos and goalie Ben Bishop talked playoffs post-game on Tuesday, the fact of the matter is that one of the true remaining benchmarks to play for in Tampa is getting Stamkos some hardware.

And it's not going to be an easy feat, Especially for Stamkos to repeat as Rocket Richard trophy winner, leading the league in goals. Alex Ovechkin has tied (and briefly exceeded) Stammer's goal total. They're tied with 26 goals in at current, with both teams in action tonight and facing off head-to-head on Saturday. While the Lightning play the juggernaut of the Eastern Conference, the Capitals play the failing, flailing Hurricanes.

That's quite a bit of opportunity for Washington's #8 to take control of the Richard race.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Victor Hedman skated this morning with the team but will not play tonight. Perhaps this weekend, as the Bolts are on the road in Washington and Buffalo, Hedman will return?

Ben Bishop once again gets the start in net for the Lightning. He'll be going up against Tomas Vokoun for the Penguins.

Benoit Pouliot, Dana Tyrell and Tom Pyatt are all scratched tonight, along with the injured Hedman. This leads to a lot of debate that can and should be had about Ben Pouliot's future with the team (I, for one, want him around) and just how next season's salary cap may affect the Lightning lineup. Tyrell and Pyatt are under contract, while Pouliot is a restricted free agent after the season.

It likely will get odder this weekend when Hedman returns to the lineup. I full well expect the Lightning to go with an 11/7 roster split to enable both Hedman's return and continued use of Mark Barberio in the lineup. The obvious scratch candidate would be Pierre-Cedric Labrie, but could Jon Cooper keep his boy Nacho in the lineup in favor of another Bolts forward? Only time will tell.

Other Previews

Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview

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