Season Series: This is the second of four meetings. On Nov. 17, Dwayne Roloson thwarted the Penguins attack, making 33 saves in a 4-1 Bolts victory. Tampa Bay has won four straight in the series, including the final three games of their 2010-11 Eastern Conference quarterfinal.
Big Story: Following protracted losing streaks, these two teams accustomed to the playoffs are currently on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. Pittsburgh scored six goals over a six-game skid that ended Friday at Florida, while Tampa Bay fell to 0-5-1 in January in a 4-3 defeat on the same night in Washington.
Penguins: Looking down the barrel of their longest losing streak since 2006, Pittsburgh finally got in the win column with Friday's 4-1 defeat of the Panthers. They also got in the scoring column with four goals, which equaled their total from the previous five games. James Neal, one of the few key attackers not hobbled by injury, had a goal and an assist – his first points since Dec. 27 against Carolina. Marc Andre-Fleury had 25 saves for his first win since the 'Canes contest.
"It's a huge relief. It wasn't fun for anybody," Fleury said of the skid, which dropped Pittsburgh to ninth in the standings. "It got frustrating, but everybody stuck together. Our last game in Washington was a good game for a lot of guys, but we couldn't win that one. (Friday) again we played well, offensively, defensively, and it paid off."
Lightning: If the Pens found a ray of hope against Florida, Tampa Bay's loss in Washington might have slammed the door on any remaining playoff aspirations. After complaining that his team only gets up for big games when Carolina crushed Tampa 5-2 in the prior game, coach Guy Boucher was despondent following what was a decidedly important matchup with the Caps.
"We've got injuries over injuries and adversity after adversity, and the breaks are just not coming at all," Boucher said.
Steven Stamkos scored his League-leading 30th goal of the year, but the Bolts couldn't recover from two first-period power-play strikes on their way to a sixth straight loss.
"It's been too many of those this year where we deserve to win and we don't and some where we play like crap and we do lose so it's frustrating," Stamkos said.
Who's Hot: Despite his season struggles, Roloson (6-10-2, 3.68 GAA, .880 save percentage, 72 GA) had a 1.77 GAA during the playoff series last season and was a significant factor in the early-season victory.
Injury Report: For Pittsburgh, Simon Despres (lower body), Jordan Staal (sprained left MCL), Robert Bortuzzo (concussion-like symptoms), Sidney Crosby (concussion-like symptoms), Kris Letang (broken nose/concussion), Brian Strait (hyperextended elbow) and Nick Peterson (concussion) are all on injured reserve. … In Tampa Bay's locker room, J.T. Wyman is questionable with a lacerated right pinky finger, while Adam Hall (forearm), Victor Hedman (concussion) and Ryan Shannon (lower body) are all on IR.
Stat Pack: Don't expect the power play to be much of a factor. Over the past nine meetings including playoffs, Pittsburgh is 1-for-47 on the man advantage. Tampa Bay has been nearly as bad overall, with Stamkos' power-play strike Friday night standing as the only score on 19 chances over the losing streak. That output has dropped them to 28th in the League for conversion rate, at 13.5 percent.
Puck Drop: "We talked about it this morning and the guys said it, 'We need 20 leaders.' I think the guys did come together. I think we liked the way we played in Washington, we liked the way we play as a team. We like the way we responded and we wanted to keep going in that direction." – Penguins coach Dan Bylsma on his team's recent improvement