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Surging Penguins host slumping Lightning

by Brian Compton

LIGHTNING (30-34-12) at PENGUINS (44-25-7)

Last 10 -- Tampa Bay 3-7-0; Pittsburgh 4-3-3.

Season series -- This is the fourth and final meeting between the teams. Pittsburgh has two of the first three, including a 2-1 decision at the St. Pete Times Forum on March 14 in the teams' last meeting.

Big story -- Hoping to repeat as Stanley Cup champs, the Penguins are in a heated battle with the New Jersey Devils for the Atlantic Division crown. Pittsburgh enters Wednesday's action just one point ahead of both the Devils for the division title and the Buffalo Sabres for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Team Scope:

Lightning -- Tampa Bay is in a tailspin going down the stretch. The Lightning suffered a 3-2 loss at Columbus on Tuesday, their seventh defeat in 10 games. After drafting Steven Stamkos with the first pick in 2008 and Victor Hedman second in 2009, TampaBay may very well have another lottery pick in 2010.

"We didn't give them much except the power plays," Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said after watching his team fall to the Blue Jackets. "It was kind of, I shouldn't say, a boring game."

Penguins -- With a nationwide audience watching on Versus, Pittsburgh will be looking for its third straight win. The Pens made it two in a row on Sunday with a 5-4 shootout victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs at Mellon Arena. Sidney Crosby scored twice in regulation -- ending a seven-game drought -- before improving to 8-for-10 in the shootout.

"The chances were there. It's nice to see it go in, especially after a stint like that," Crosby said.

Who's hot -- Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier notched his 23rd goal of the season on Tuesday night and has points in six of his last seven games. … Matt Cooke notched his 15th tally on Sunday, a new career-high.

Injury report -- David Hale (ankle), Ryan Malone (knee) and Kurtis Foster (upper body) are out for TampaBay. … Pens center Evgeni Malkin (foot) and defenseman Sergei Gonchar (illness) are questionable.

Stat pack -- Crosby's pair against Toronto on Sunday marked the first time he's scored this season in the 12 games the Penguins have played without Malkin in the lineup.

Puck Drop -- "I'm just going to focus on playing hockey and giving my best to my teammates. I think that the most exciting things are coming, so I can't wait to be here again." -- Pens defenseman Kris Letang after signing a four-year contract extension

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