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Penguins vs. Lightning Game Preview

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh Penguins

Home: 2-3-0-4
Road: 3-0-1-7

WHEN: Oct 27, 2010 - 7:30 pm   |   WHERE: St. Pete Times Forum
FSN  |  LISTEN: Pens HD Radio, 105.9 FM
Tampa Bay Lightning
Home: 2-1-1-5

  Pittsburgh Penguins at Tampa Bay Lightning 
Ryan Malone
F  -  #6
  1 Goal
  4 Assists
  5 Points
• Has scored 20 or more goals in three consecutive years and has reached that plateau in five of his first six seasons.
• The 2010 U.S. Olympian ranked third in the NHL with seven game-winning goals last season and topped the Lightning with 178 hits despite playing just 69 games.
• Graciously and without being asked, gave up his No. 12 sweater to offseason addition Simon Gagne, symbolizing the standup teammate he is.
Dominic Moore
F  -  #19
  4 Goals
  1 Assist
  5 Points
• One of three former Penguins (Malone; Adam Hall) on the Tampa Bay roster, his four goals rank second on the team behind Stamkos.
• 30-year-old forward is one of the NHL’s better checking-line centers, as evidenced by his being traded to contenders each of the past two trading deadlines.
• Posted five points (4G-1A) in 19 postseason games with the Canadiens last spring, as he helped the Habs eliminate the Penguins during the second round.
Pavel Kubina
D  -  #13
  1 Goal 
  2 Assists
  3 Points
• Veteran defenseman returns for a second tour of duty in Tampa Bay, where he began his career and helped the Lightning capture the 2004 Stanley Cup.
• Offensive-minded blueliner has posted 35 or more points five times in his career, including each of the past three seasons.
• Had a career year during the Lightning’s 2003-04 Stanley Cup season, establishing career highs in goals (17) and rating (plus-9) while appearing in 81 contests.
It should be an exciting affair at the St. Pete Times Forum on Wednesday night as the Eastern Conference’s top-two highest scoring teams square off. Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay have each scored 27 goals on the season, with the Lightning’s 3.38 goals per game average the top figure in the National Hockey League.

Tampa Bay is led by a franchise center in Steven Stamkos, whose play since the beginning of last season has him reaching heights previously reached only by players named Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin. Stamkos, who tied Crosby for the league lead last season with 51 goals, is off to a red-hot start. He paces all NHL scorers in both goals (8) and points (15).

Behind Stamkos’ scoring exploits, the leadership provided by first-year head coach Guy Boucher and an improved supporting cast around Stamkos built by rookie general manager Steve Yzerman, the Lightning have jumped out to a 5-2-1 start which has them one point in front of the Washington Capitals at the top of the Southeast Division as of Tuesday night.

In addition to Stamkos, the Lightning continue to receive the usual point-per-game nights from shifty veteran Martin St. Louis. He ranks second on the team behind Stamkos with nine points (3G-6A) through eight games. Last season’s breakout performer, Steve Downie, has also continued his strong offensive play this season, ranking third on the team with six points (2G-4A) while manning the right side with Stamkos and St. Louis.

Second-year blueliner Victor Hedman, the 6-foot-6 Swede who was taken No. 2-overall by the Lightning in 2009, continues to take strides towards establishing himself as a top-flight defenseman. Hedman has picked up six assists, which tie for fifth most in the league among D-men, while logging a team-best 23:30 minutes per night.

In goal, the Lightning have rotated between veterans Dan Ellis, who was signed during the offseason, and Mike Smith. Neither is posting eye-popping individual numbers, although Smith does sport a perfect 4-0 record.
  • A victory by the Penguins on Wednesday night would allow the team to begin the season with a 4-0-1 record away from CONSOL Energy Center. That would tie for the second-best road start in team history (7-0, 2009-10; 4-0-1, 1994-95).
  • The Penguins have had great success at the St. Pete Times Forum over the past three seasons. Since the beginning of the 2007-08 campaign, Pittsburgh has posted a 5-1 record in Tampa Bay. Overall, the Penguins have gone 8-4 against the Lightning over the same stretch.
  • Penguins center Mark Letestu continues to establish himself as one of the top rookies in the NHL. Through Tuesday, the 25-year-old pivot ranks first in the following categories among first-year players: goals (4, 1st), points (7, t-1st), power-play goals (2, t-1st), plus-minus rating (plus-4, t-1st), shots (25, 1st) and faceoff wins (52, t-1st).
  • If you didn’t think Lightning center Steven Stamkos has reached an elite status, maybe the following numbers will allow you to do so. Since Feb 17, 2009, when he recorded his first career hat trick against Chicago, Stamkos has posted 75 goals and 134 points in 116 games for an average of 1.16 points per game.
  • Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury played some of his best hockey against the Lightning last season, stopping 92 of the 99 shots (.929 svp.) he faced over the four games for a stingy 1.76 goals-against average. Fleury should be motivated against the Lightning, as a victory would allow him to become the seventh-youngest netminder in NHL history to pick up his 150th career win at 25 years, 333 days.


Contain Stamkos: This isn’t much of a surprise as one of the keys to victory with the way Stamkos has played since midway through his rookie season in 2008-09, he’s been a focal point for teams on a nightly basis. Last season. Stamkos registered a goal and three assists in Tampa Bay’s two victories against Pittsburgh. In the Penguins’ two victories, he tallied just one goal.

Bring the Intensity:
It was probably a good thing the Penguins had three days off following two spirited battles in a three-day span against Nashville and St. Louis to close last week. Not only did the Penguins respond well to a pair of playoff-intense matchups, they picked up three of a possible four points. They need to bring that same high intensity into the St. Pete Times Forum, something Arron Asham’s return should help.
C Jordan Staal, foot (indefinitely)
D Zbynek Michalek, upper body (1 to 3 weeks)

D Mattias Ohlund, knee (day-to-day)
F Simon Gagne, neck (day-to-day)
Crosby (6) Stamkos (8)
Martin/Letang (6) Stamkos (7)
Crosby (11) Stamkos (15)
Rupp (20) Downie (25)
Letang (+8) Stamkos (+6)
Crosby (3) Stamkos (3)
Cooke (1)
Johnson (4-0-1) Smith (4-0-0)
Johnson (1.39) Smith (3.11)
Johnson (.951) Smith (.884)

Brent Johnson - The Penguins continue to get excellent goaltending between the pipes from Brent Johnson, who stopped 23 of 24 shots in a 1-0 loss to the Blues on Saturday night to remain unbeaten on the season at 4-0-1. Johnson ranks in the top-five among all NHL netminders in wins (4, t-5th), goals-against average (1.39, 3rd) and save percentage (.951, 4th).
Steven Stamkos - Not only does the 20-year-old center lead the NHL in both goals (8) and points (15), he is also red-hot. Stamkos has picked up nine points (4G-5A) over his last four games, including a hat trick, four-point performance on Oct. 22 at Atlanta. He has recorded at least one point in seven of his eight games this season.

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Author: Jason Seidling

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