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Malkin-less Penguins host Lightning

Saturday, 02.23.2013 / 11:27 PM

Mike Battaglino - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Malkin-less Penguins host Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

LIGHTNING (9-7-1) at PENGUINS (12-6-0)

TV: NBCSN, ROOT, TSN2

Last 10: Tampa Bay 3-6-1; Pittsburgh 7-3-0

Season series: This is the first meeting; the teams play again in Pittsburgh a week from Monday. The Penguins won three of four last season, including an 8-1 victory last Feb. 25. They had at least four goals in each game and outscored the Lightning 22-7.

Big story: After playing most of the past two seasons without Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins will again be without reigning NHL MVP Evgeni Malkin, starting Sunday. Malkin hit the end boards after a check during Friday's win against the Florida Panthers, and his status going forward is uncertain. The center suffered a season-ending knee injury in February 2011, and Crosby was sidelined from January 2011 until returning to play full-time last March.

Tampa Bay has had few of those injury concerns, with top forwards Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis missing a total of eight games combined since Stamkos debuted in 2008-09.

Team Scope:

Lightning: With a 5-2 victory at Carolina on Saturday, Tampa Bay has won three of four after a six-game losing streak to regain first place in the Southeast Division.

"We've seen a lot of good things," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "I like the way our team is progressing."

Goalie Mathieu Garon won Saturday; Anders Lindback likely will start this one.

Forward Richard Panik got his first NHL goal Saturday, the 18th Lightning player to score this season, for a League-leading 66 goals. The four-third period goals give them an NHL-best 32.

But the power play went 0-for-3 and is in a 3-for-32 slump.

"If we are patient and in reach, we will be fine," Boucher said. "So we need to make sure we don't sabotage ourselves and give away goals because we are impatient. Right now, we are working on not forcing it in the first or second, and that's what we did today."

Penguins: Pittsburgh, winners of five of its past six, plays five of its next six on the road. It is unknown how many of those games Malkin could miss.

"He's still being evaluated as to the extent of the hit and going into the boards hard," coach Dan Bylsma said after practice Saturday. "That's an ongoing process at this point in time."

Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported Saturday that Malkin was experiencing symptoms consistent with someone who has a concussion, including "severe headache and mild disorientation."

Malkin was injured Friday night in a 3-1 victory against the Florida Panthers. Florida defenseman Erik Gudbranson checked Malkin early in the third period, and the Penguins center fell awkwardly into the end boards.

"There's nothing to expect from this point," Bylsma said. "He's getting evaluated. We're waiting to see how he feels and reacts. He went into the boards pretty darn hard. We're not expecting any timeline to the injury or anything."

Brandon Sutter took Malkin's place on the second line in practice between James Neal and rookie Beau Bennett, according to the team's website. Dustin Jeffrey moved into Sutter's spot on the third unit, and Joe Vitale was centering the fourth line.

Who's hot: Lightning defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron scored his first goal since Dec. 29, 2011, on Saturday; he has three points in his past four games. Stamkos has five goals (seven points) in his past four games. Forward Benoit Pouliot has eight points in his past six games. Forward Cory Conacher has a four-game point streak (goal, three assists). … Penguins forward Chris Kunitz has six of his seven goals in February; he had four assists in his past four games and entered play Saturday 10th in the League in scoring (20 points).

Injury report: Lightning forward Ryan Malone (lower body) is out until next month. … Malkin is undergoing NHL testing protocol, Bylsma said.

2012-2013 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Apr 11 '13PIT 6 at TBL 3E. Malkin
Mar 04 '13TBL 3 at PIT 4J. Neal
Feb 24 '13TBL 3 at PIT 5B. Bennett
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
S. Stamkos18131629+21250
M. St. Louis1842024+0221
T. Purcell1841418+6410
C. Conacher1871017+01212
V. Lecavalier1861117+21630
B. Pouliot186814+8401
V. Hedman184610+101300
T. Pyatt18459+2601
M. Carle18369-5220
S. Salo18178+12610
E. Brewer18437+01411
R. Malone10415-1811
A. Killorn8235+4401
N. Thompson18314-4600
M. Bergeron8134+4200
A. Hall17033+22300
B. Crombeen17033+24200
K. Aulie15112-22900
D. Tyrell6112+0400
R. Panik7101-2001
B. Mikkelson2011+2200
B. Lee15000-91400
P. Labrie3000-1500
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
A. Lindback147-4-1423813.27.890
M. Garon62-4-0141692.75.917
PlayerGPGAP+/-PIMPPGW
S. Crosby1991928+9820
C. Kunitz1971421+91042
E. Malkin1841721-43031
J. Neal1912618-71684
K. Letang1631215+7400
P. Martin1931114-2811
P. Dupuis197512+61211
M. Cooke19369+32000
B. Sutter19448+7411
M. Niskanen11325-2001
S. Despres15235+61600
T. Kennedy19224+3400
C. Adams19213-11300
B. Orpik19033+0600
R. Bortuzzo9112+41300
D. Engelland19022+82500
J. Vitale16022-4900
D. Jeffrey6101+2200
B. Bennett5101+1011
T. Glass19000-52800
Z. Boychuk8000-2200
E. Tangradi5000+2000
D. Reese3000+0000
B. Lovejoy3000-2000
GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
M. Fleury1310-3-0293442.28.916
T. Vokoun73-3-0181792.87.899