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At the Rink: Penguins at Lightning

by Corey Long

TAMPA -- Don't expect the Tampa Bay Lightning to have much sympathy for the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena on Tuesday.

The Penguins are down 13 players with sickness or injuries. They used a seventh defenseman in place of a fourth-line forward in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers on Monday.

However, the Penguins have managed to remain atop the Eastern Conference with 49 points (22-6-5). The Lightning have struggled to a 3-5-2 record in their past 10 games.

Tampa Bay is also winless in its past 10 regular-season games against Pittsburgh (0-9-1).

"They seem to be getting points regardless of who is in the lineup," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "And they have [Sidney Crosby] playing tonight, which they didn't have last time we played. [Evgeni] Malkin is playing. They are a dangerous team."

The Lightning are back home after going 1-3-1 in a five-game road trip against Metropolitan Division opponents. They were outscored 15-10 and have struggled to score goals in the past two weeks.

"We need to start quicker than we have so far," Lightning center Steven Stamkos said. "We're playing from behind a lot right now. We still want to control the puck in the offensive zone and be smart but we need to get more action around the goal."

The drop off in goals has been alarming to Cooper and he's made several adjustments to his lines in hopes of finding a remedy. Rookie Jonathan Drouin will be paired with Stamkos, and Ryan Callahan moves down to the third line.

The power play has been a glaring issue during the Lightning's scoring drought. In its past 10 games Tampa Bay is 3-for-33 with the man advantage.

"In our first 25 games we've averaging 3.6 goals a game and in our last 10 we're averaging 2.2, that's a goal and a half difference," Cooper said. "And now you're losing these games by a goal and that's the difference. You don't score at the rate we scored in the first 25 games by a fluke. The bounces are going our way but we have to work out way out of it. We have some guys that haven't scored in their past 10 or 11 games so as a coach you try to make some moves and find some chemistry."

Here are the projected lineups:


Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Patric Hornqvist

Nick Spaling - Evgeni Malkin - Bryan Rust

Bobby Farnham - Marcel Goc - Rob Klinkhammer

Dominik Uher - Andrew Ebbett - Taylor Chorney

Simon Despres - Kris Letang

Brian Dumoulin - Scott Harrington

Rob Scuderi - Derrick Pouliot

Marc-Andre Fleury

Jeff Zatkoff

Scratched: None

Injured: Zach Sill (upper body) Thomas Griess (illness), Craig Adams (undisclosed), Steve Downie (illness), Brandon Sutter (illness), Paul Martin (undisclosed) Pascal Dupuis (blood clot), Beau Bennett (lower body), Scott Wilson (lower body) Olli Maatta (shoulder/mumps), Robert Bortuzzo (upper body), Christian Ehrhoff (illness), Blake Comeau (wrist)


Jonathan Drouin - Steven Stamkos - Brett Connolly

Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn - Valtteri Filppula - Ryan Callahan

Brenden Morrow - Brian Boyle - Cedric Paquette

Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman

Mark Barberio - Andrej Sustr

Matt Carle - Radko Gudas

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Evgeni Nabokov

Scratched: J.T. Brown

Injured: Ben Bishop (lower body), Jason Garrison (lower body)

Status report: Bishop practiced Monday but might not return to the lineup until Saturday. ...Stralman did not practice Monday but returned to the ice for the morning skate Tuesday. ... The Penguins did not skate Tuesday and will likely use Chorney, a defenseman, on situational shifts with their fourth line. … Pittsburgh recalled Uher from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. He is expected to be the sixth Penguins player to make his NHL debut this month.

Who's hot: Fleury (6-0-2, 1.59 goals-against average, .949 save percentage, two shutouts) has yet to lose a game in regulation in December ... Stamkos has earned a point in 19 of his past 26 games (13 goals, 15 assists) ... Johnson had an assist, his 24th of the season, in a 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders on Saturday. He five points (two goals, three assists) in his past four games.

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