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At the Rink: Penguins at Lightning

by Corey Long

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning will look to keep their recent hot streak going when they return home to play the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena on Friday (7:30 p.m. ET, TVA Sports, SUN, ROOT).

Tampa Bay (22-17-4) won its final three games of a four-game road trip and moved into the first wild card in the Eastern Conference after a 4-0 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.

With five of the next six games at Amalie Arena, the Lightning hope to continue their ascension and tighten the race in the Atlantic Division.

"It's funny how you look at it ... you lose the first one to Calgary and you're down 2-0 to Edmonton in the third," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "We're staring at, almost an 0-2 start. [So] what started off as a nerve-racking trip turned into a pretty darn successful one."

Pittsburgh (20-16-6) is one of five teams within two points of the Lightning in the Eastern Conference is trying to salvage the final game of a four-game road trip after a 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. Pittsburgh is 1-2-0 on the trip.

"Every game this time of year it's important," Penguins defenseman Trevor Daley said. "They have some great players over there. We're going to have to get traffic to the net and limit their opportunities."

Pittsburgh faces a grueling schedule with three games in the next four days.

Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said it's important for the team to control the puck and get off to a good start Friday.

"[The Lightning] are really dangerous offensively," Letang said. "They have a lot of skill and they have guys that on the back end that can jump in the play. It's up to us and what we do with the puck that's important.

The Penguins will have to play Friday and for the foreseeable future without center and key penalty killer Nick Bonino, who sustained a hand injury against Carolina and returned to Pittsburgh.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said the injury is "not going to be short term."

"I'm reluctant to put a time frame on it quite yet," Sullivan said after Penguins practice Thursday. "He's going to be missed in a lot of areas. He's been a big part of the penalty kill. He's a guy that you can lean on to take faceoffs in the defensive zone. He was on one of the power-play units."

Sullivan did have some good news Friday when he was named as an assistant for Team USA at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. The event will be held from Sept. 16-Oct. 1 in Toronto.

"Obviously it's an honor to represent your country in these types of events," Sullivan said. "They are the pinnacle of the sport, and it's a privilege to be part of it."

Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to get the start in goal for Pittsburgh. Andrei Vasilevskiy will make his 10th start of the year for the Lightning.

Here are the projected starting lineups:


Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - David Perron

Patric Hornqvist - Evgeni Malkin - Phil Kessel

Tom Kuhnhackl - Eric Fehr - Bryan Rust

Kevin Porter - Matt Cullen - Sergei Plotnikov

Olli Maatta - Kris Letang

Brian Dumoulin - Ben Lovejoy

Ian Cole - Trevor Daley

Marc-Andre Fleury

Jeff Zatkoff

Injured: Beau Bennett (upper body), Nick Bonino (hand)

Scratched: David Warsofsky, Adam Clendening, Conor Sheary


Ondrej Palat - Vladislav Namestnikov - Steven Stamkos

Alex Killorn - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov

Cedric Paquette - Valtteri Filppula - Ryan Callahan

J.T. Brown - Brian Boyle

Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman

Jason Garrison - Andrej Sustr

Nikita Nesterov - Braydon Coburn

Matthew Carle

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Ben Bishop

Injured: Joel Vermin (hand)

Scratched: Erik Condra, Jonathan Marchessault

Status Report: Malkin practiced Thursday after taking a maintenance day Wednesday. ... Cooper said he expects the same lineup as Tuesday, which means 11 forwards and seven defensemen. ...The Penguins recalled forward Conor Sheary from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. Sheary leads the AHL with 26 assists this season.

Who's Hot: Hedman has a goal and four assists with a plus-5 rating in the past three games. ... Crosby has three goals and three assists in the past five games.

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