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Preview: Lightning at Penguins

Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy could start third game in four days; Pittsburgh set to play first game since Dec. 31

by Wes Crosby / NHL.com Correspondent

LIGHTNING (19-18-4) at PENGUINS (25-8-5)

5 p.m. ET; NHLN-US, SN360, ROOT, SUN, NHL.TV

 

Lightning team scope

Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy could start for the third time in four days for the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday. He allowed four goals on 40 shots in a 4-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday. "Physically, I'm fine," Vasilevskiy said. "I'm still young and I can play like nine games in a row, but it's a mental game now. It's in my head, I have to be better in my head and just handle my thoughts during the game." Vasilevskiy impressed against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2016 Eastern Conference Final, when he had a .925 save percentage in seven games (six starts). In his previous start against Pittsburgh on Dec. 10, Vasilevskiy made 33 saves on 37 shots, but allowed two third-period goals in a 4-3 loss. Forward J.T. Brown's status for Sunday is uncertain after taking a hit to the head from Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds with 4:37 remaining Saturday. Lightning coach Jon Cooper did not provide an update following the game. "I don't know, he didn't look too good to me," Cooper said. "That's a tough hit." Brown has two goals and four points in 34 games this season. The Lightning have allowed 16 goals in three straight losses entering Sunday. They are 5-7-3 since defeating the Washington Capitals 2-1 in a shootout on Dec. 3.

 

Penguins team scope

Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to start for Pittsburgh with Matt Murray recovering from a lower-body injury. Fleury has allowed six goals on 106 shots in four straight wins and has won six of his past seven decisions (6-0-1). "I think our consistency has been better," Fleury said. "I think the first few months, there had been a few ups and downs. Other than that, I think we found a way to bring our game every night." Murray, who was injured against the Carolina Hurricanes on Dec. 28, has started skating on his own but has not resumed practicing. Pittsburgh will play for the first time since defeating the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 in overtime on Dec. 31. The Penguins were 12-1-2, and 9-0-1 at home, in December. They are 17-2-2 at PPG Paints Arena this season. Pittsburgh scored at least four goals in 11 of 15 December games, which can be attributed to consistent production from forwards Sidney Crosby (five goals and nine points in his past seven games; 14 goals and 26 points in his past 19), Phil Kessel (one goal and five points on a four-game point streak), Carl Hagelin (two goals and five points on a three-game point streak) and defenseman Justin Schultz (one goal and four points on a four-game point streak). "We're pleased with where we're at, for sure. (But) we're not satisfied," coach Mike Sullivan said. "We know this team has another level and we're going to push them."

 
Lightning projected lineup

Ondrej Palat -- Tyler Johnson -- Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn -- Valtteri Filppula -- Jonathan Drouin

Matthew Peca -- Vladislav Namestnikov -- Adam Erne

J.T. Brown -- Cedric Paquette -- Ryan Callahan

Victor Hedman -- Anton Stralman

Jason Garrison -- Nikita Nesterov

Luke Witkowski -- Andrej Sustr

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Adam Wilcox

Scratched: Slater Koekkoek, Braydon Coburn

Injured: Ben Bishop (lower body), Brian Boyle (lower body), Brayden Point (upper body), Steven Stamkos (knee)

 

Penguins projected lineup

Conor Sheary -- Sidney Crosby -- Bryan Rust

Carl Hagelin -- Evgeni Malkin -- Patric Hornqvist

Chris Kunitz -- Nick Bonino -- Phil Kessel

Scott Wilson -- Matt Cullen -- Eric Fehr

Trevor Daley -- Kris Letang

Ian Cole -- Justin Schultz

Olli Maatta -- Steve Oleksy

Marc-Andre Fleury

Tristan Jarry

Scratched: Chad Ruhwedel, Tom Kuhnhackl

Injured: Brian Dumoulin (broken jaw), Matt Murray (lower body)

 

Status report

Tampa Bay recalled Witkowski from Syracuse on Friday. He played 13:29 and had three hits against Philadelphia. … Fleury and Hagelin each participated in practice Saturday after being ill Friday. … Kuhnhackl has been cleared to play from a lower-body injury sustained against the Los Angeles Kings on Dec. 16.

 

Who's hot

Kucherov scored his third goal in three games against the Flyers on Saturday. He has eight points in his past seven games. … Malkin has scored four goals and 10 points in his past seven games. His 43 points are second in the NHL behind Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid.

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