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|PIT||3||2||3||(0 - 0)||8|
TV: NHLN-US (HD), SUN (HD), ROOT (HD)
Last 10: Tampa Bay 5-4-1; Pittsburgh 5-4-1
Season Series: The Penguins and Lightning will conclude their four-game season series, with the Lightning looking to earn a split. After losing the first game 4-1, Pittsburgh responded with 6-3 and 4-2 wins.
Big Story: The NHL's top two scorers, Evgeni Malkin and Steven Stamkos, go head to head as the Lightning comes to the Consol Energy Center for the last time this season. Malkin and Stamkos are tied for the most points in the NHL (73), while Stamkos is running away with the Rocket Richard Trophy as the League's top goal-scorer with 43. Aside from the star matchup, the Penguins look to jockey for playoff positioning, while the Bolts are trying to crash the top eight in the East.
Lightning: After an impressive recent four-game homestand, in which the team grabbed six of eight points, the Lightning are now in the midst of an important three-game road trip that started off with a 4-3 loss to the Jets in Winnipeg on Thursday. The Bolts trailed 2-0 after one period, 4-0 early in the second, and made it look close with two goals in the final minute.
"That first period really wasn't good for us," assistant coach Dan Lacroix said. "We had too many turnovers, we couldn't get pucks deep, and they had a lot of momentum. There were a lot of areas of our game that we needed to improve."
Penguins: The Penguins still have their sights set on claiming the Atlantic Division title, particularly after besting the New York Rangers 2-0 on Tuesday night. They have a chance to move closer with weekend home games against the Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets, neither of whom hold a playoff berth.
"It's what we are accustomed to quite a bit, especially this month," defenseman Paul Martin told the team's website when asked about playing back-to-back games this weekend. "I think we learned our lesson a couple of times as far as what we can do if we aren't ready to play, no matter who the team. We just have to make sure we are ready to play and don't take anything for granted and hopefully it's a good weekend."
Who's Hot: For the Bolts, Stamkos has five goals and three assists in his past three games. … Aside from Malkin, the Penguins are getting help from veteran Steve Sullivan, who is riding a three-game point streak.
Injury Report: The Lightning will be without the services of Mattias Ohlund (knee), Marc-Andre Bergeron (upper-body) and Vincenet Lecavalier (hand). For Pittsburgh, Matt Niskanen, Brent Johnson, Brooks Orpik and Tyler Kennedy are all day-to-day, though Niskanen hopes to play. Sidney Crosby is still skating at practice but there's no indication when he might be able to return as he recovers from concussion symptoms.
Stat Pack: With a win, the Penguins will be in a first-place tie for most wins on home ice in the Eastern Conference (19).
Puck Drop: Lightning coach Guy Boucher on his team's playoff push:
"Right now, it's just keep on pushing and finding way with the players that have been brought up. That's what we've been doing for a while and I think we take pride in this. We're doing it under difficult circumstances."
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