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Tampa Bay forward Kunitz returns to Pittsburgh to face former team

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

LIGHTNING (16-4-2) at PENGUINS (11-10-3)



The Game

Forward Chris Kunitz returns with the Tampa Bay Lightning to meet the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena on Saturday.

Kunitz, one of five players to win the Stanley Cup three times with the Penguins, has six points (three goals, three assists) in 21 games with the Lightning. Kunitz, who signed a one-year contract with the Lightning as an unrestricted free agent on July 1 after nine seasons in Pittsburgh, has one assist in two games against his former team this season.

Pittsburgh will face Tampa Bay on the second half of a back-to-back for the third time this season. It was outscored 12-5 in the first two.

The Penguins have been outscored 36-12 and are 0-4-2 in the second halves of back-to-backs.

Two of Tampa Bay's four regulation losses have come in its past three games. Pittsburgh has lost three straight in regulation, including two at home.


Players to watch

Lightning forward Vladislav Namestnikov, who scored Tampa Bay's only goal in a 3-1 loss to the Washington Capitals on Friday, has at least one point in seven of his past eight games.

Penguins forward Jake Guentzel scored his third power-play goal in two games in a 4-3 loss to the Boston Bruins on Friday. He is tied with forward Phil Kessel for the team lead with nine goals.


They said it

"Maybe you've got to go through little spells like this to regroup and call this that dreaded 'A word,' adversity. We don't have a lot of time to dwell on it because we've got the big boys [tonight]." -- Lightning coach Jon Cooper

"Every player has to take ownership for their own preparedness so that we're ready from the drop of the puck." -- Penguins coach Mike Sullivan


Lightning projected lineup

Vladislav Namestnikov -- Steven Stamkos -- Nikita Kucherov

Odrej Palat -- Brayden Point -- Yanni Gourde

Alex Killorn -- Tyler Johnson

Chris Kunitz -- Cedric Paquette -- Ryan Callahan

Victor Hedman -- Andrej Sustr

Mikhail Sergachev -- Anton Stralman

Braydon Coburn -- Dan Girardi

Slater Koekkoek

Peter Budaj

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Scratched: Cory Conacher, Christoper DiDomenico

Injured: J.T. Brown (undisclosed), Jake Dotchin (undisclosed)


Penguins projected lineup

Conor Sheary -- Sidney Crosby -- Patric Hornqvist

Jake Guentzel -- Riley Sheahan -- Phil Kessel

Carl Hagelin -- Carter Rowney -- Bryan Rust

Tom Kuhnhackl -- Greg McKegg -- Ryan Reaves

Brian Dumoulin -- Kris Letang

Matt Hunwick -- Justin Schultz

Olli Maatta -- Chad Ruhwedel

Tristan Jarry

Matt Murray

Scratched: Ian Cole, Josh Archibald

Injured: Evgeni Malkin (upper body)


Status report

Cooper said Dotchin (undisclosed), would be eligible to return Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres. …  The Lighting dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen Friday. … Malkin did not travel to Boston on Friday with an upper-body injury sustained against the Chicago Blackhawks on Nov. 18. His status for Saturday is uncertain.


Stat pack

Coburn played his 800th NHL game Friday. … Crosby will play his 807th game, which will pass Jaromir Jagr for second in Penguins history. Mario Lemieux is the all-time leader with 915 games played.

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