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At the Rink: Lightning at Penguins

by Wes Crosby

PITTSBURGH -- Two of the Eastern Conference's best teams will meet in Pittsburgh on Monday, but one won't have a full arsenal.

The Pittsburgh Penguins will be without forward Sidney Crosby when they face the Tampa Bay Lightning at Consol Energy Center (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, SN). Crosby will miss his third consecutive game after it was announced Sunday he had been diagnosed with the mumps.

"It's just weird," forward Brandon Sutter said. "He had a few things going on last week, and when you saw him you knew something was up. But like [team doctor Dharmesh Vyas] said, he went through the test before and didn't show anything. Just kind of a weird series of events."

Crosby is past the infectious stage of the disease and is expected to return to skating Tuesday or Wednesday, Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said Monday. But Rutherford said forward Beau Bennett, who has missed nine games with a lower-body injury, is showing symptoms of the mumps and has been quarantined.

Bennett's test results are expected back Tuesday, Rutherford said.

The Penguins most likely will use a drastically different set of lines for the third consecutive game. Forward Evgeni Malkin is expected to move to first-line left wing alongside Sutter at center and right wing Patric Hornqvist.

In their first game without Crosby, Friday against the Calgary Flames, Sutter replaced Crosby as the top-line center between Hornqvist and Nick Spaling. The Penguins then shuffled their lines the following day, with Malkin playing between Hornqvist and Rob Klinkhammer against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Pittsburgh will hope their new-look lineup can match the NHL's second-ranked offense (3.36 goals per game).

"If you look at the way Tampa Bay plays, much different than the game we played the other night in Columbus," Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. "They're a puck-possession team. They're a team that can really attack with numbers."

The Lightning have avoided contracting the mumps thus far. Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos said he was not surprised Crosby had the disease when he saw a picture of Crosby's facial swelling. Stamkos said he feels fortunate his team has not encountered a similar case.

"It's pretty crazy for it to last this long," Stamkos said. "You just hope we can do a good job of trying to contain it but I don't really know much about it. So I think it's just hope and pray that we don't get it. … I'm not a doctor. We're fortunate it hasn't hit any of our players yet."

Lightning coach Jon Cooper said defenseman Radko Gudas will not play Monday because of a virus, but mentioned it is not the mumps. Gudas is believed to have a stomach virus.

"None of the symptoms are the same," Cooper said. "I'm a little blown away at this. How it's jumping from team to team, but it's in different parts of the country now. You have the Rangers in the East, Anaheim in the West, you have teams in the Midwest. So I'm not sure how this is happening."

Here are the projected lineups:


Valtteri Filppula - Steven Stamkos - Ryan Callahan

Alex Killorn - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov

J.T. Brown - Cedric Paquette - Jonathan Drouin

Brenden Morrow - Brian Boyle - Brett Connolly

Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman

Jason Garrison - Andrej Sustr

Matthew Carle - Mark Barberio

Ben Bishop

Evgeni Nabokov

Scratched: Vladislav Namestnikov

Injured: Ondrej Palat (lower body), Radko Gudas (illness)


Evgeni Malkin - Brandon Sutter - Patric Hornqvist

Blake Comeau - Marcel Goc - Steve Downie

Nick Spaling - Craig Adams - Bobby Farnham

Rob Klinkhammer - Andrew Ebbett - Bryan Rust

Paul Martin - Kris Letang

Christian Ehrhoff - Brian Dumoulin

Simon Despres - Rob Scuderi

Marc-Andre Fleury

Thomas Greiss

Scratched: Scott Harrington

Injured: Sidney Crosby (illness), Pascal Dupuis (blood clot), Beau Bennett (lower body), Chris Kunitz (foot fracture), Olli Maatta (upper body), Scott Wilson (leg), Zach Sill (leg), Robert Bortuzzo (undisclosed)

Status report: Rutherford said a full update on Maatta, who is out with an upper-body injury, is expected later in the week. … Morrow will play against the Penguins for the second time since a stint in Pittsburgh at the end of the 2012-13 season.

Who's hot: Comeau is third on the Penguins with 10 goals after scoring five with the Columbus Blue Jackets last season. … Kucherov has at least one point in 11 of his last 14 games. He scored Tampa Bay's goals in its 2-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Dec. 11.

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