Black Friday matinee; Tampa Bay Lightning versus Pittsburgh Penguins preview

It's been just over 20 games since these two teams last matched up, and once again the clubs are pretty evenly matched statistically going into their contest.

Where: Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
When: 4 PM EST | Tickets: Check availability
Media: Sun Sports (cable) | 95.3 FM / 620 AM WDAE Stream (radio)
Opponent Coverage: Pensburgh, The Pensblog

Back in October, the Lightning and Penguins danced for the first time in the 2013-14 NHL season. Going into the affair, both clubs were 3-1-0. The only difference that was apparent between the two clubs was the fact Pierre McGuire's favorite hockey player ever plays for Pittsburgh, which equated the Lightning to irrelevant challenger status. No, this game wasn't on NBC Sports Net, I'm just complaining while I have the opportunity to do so (with no offense intended toward Pittsburgh fans who are ever-so aware of the over-admiration.)

What came from that contest was a last-team-scoring-wins mess that saw the Penguins triumph late. There was some voiced concern post-game about different aspects of the Lightning; less so on the mistakes of the young roster and much more so (ridiculously to an extent) on Anders Lindback. Blame went to Lindback for the 5-4 loss when it was a team-effort failure in the end.

That was then, though, and Lindback was starting the flip side of back-to-back games. The Swede tower started Wednesday's victory against the Flyers, giving Ben Bishop the night off... Meaning that, unless Bishop is indeed hurt after taking a puck to the hand during morning skate on Wednesday, he'll be starting in goal for the Lightning this afternoon. Couple that with Marc-Andre Fleury getting the start in Pittsburgh (if that happens, which seems probable) and there's an increased likelihood that instead of this game being last-goal-wins like the first game of the season series between the two clubs, it may be a case of last-goal-wins.

While the Lightning have a game in-hand on the Penguins, both teams are situated in the conference standings right next to each other - 33 points each, 16 wins, 1 OT/SO loss. Pittsburgh's extra game is tallied as a loss. Much like the Lightning, they are also riding fantastic goaltending. Fleury is 13-7-1 with a 2.16 GAA and a .913 save percentage in 22 games he's appeared in. By comparison, Bishop is 14-3-1 with a 2.08 GAA and a .9331 save percentage in 19 appearances this season.

Head-to-head, Fleury and Bishop match up pretty well... So do the clubs averages in goals per game and goals allowed per game. I mean, literally, these two clubs match up perfectly: 2.92 goals per game and a difference of a tenth of a percentage point in goals allowed per game (2.42 for Tampa and 2.52 for Pittsburgh).

Yeah, well, Pittsburgh has Sidney Crosby and the Lightning is missing Steven Stamkos so that means it's no contest really. Or does it? In the 8 games since losing Stamkos to his broken tibia, the Bolts have scored 2.75 goals on average (22 goals total). That's a half goal less per game than Pittsburgh has scored over its last eight games (3.25 goals per game in that span, 26 goals total).

While there's offensive potency coming from both clubs, it's going to come down to the goalies and defense... or at least it should if these averages hold up

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