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What To Watch For: Pens vs. Lightning

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

PENGUINS (31-19-5) vs. LIGHTNING (24-24-6)
WHEN: Feb. 12 2012 - 7:00 pm  |  WHERE: CONSOL Energy Center

WATCH: ROOT SPORTS  |  LISTEN: Penguins 24/7 Radio, 105.9 FM

The last time the Penguins and Lightning got together both teams were riding six-game losing streaks. The Pens came away with a big 6-3 victory in sunny Florida Jan. 15 to hand the Bolts their seventh straight

NHL goal-scoring leader Steven Stamkos
The Lightning rebounded from that loss by running off five straight wins. The team is 7-1-2 since and has climbed to within eight points of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference standings. However, that’s a big eight points to make up with a lot of teams to jump over as the clock on the season winds down.

As always, the Bolts are led offensively by their big three of Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier.

Stamkos, who turned 22 on Tuesday, is well on his way to winning his second Maurice Richard Trophy as the NHL’s goal-scoring champion. His 37 goals are the most in the NHL by seven, and he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Stamkos’ 62 points also rank second in the NHL.

Stamkos has 21 goals and 11 assists in his last 25 games and is on a six-game scoring streak.

The weak spot for Tampa Bay this season has been defense and goaltending. The Bolts have allowed 3.30 goals per game, by far the highest total in the NHL. The blue line has improved with the return of Victor Hedman. The 6-foot-6, 229-pound backend missed a month of action with a concussion.

The Lightning are still looking for answers in goal. Mathieu Garon and Dwayne Roloson have been rotating, but neither has really claimed the top spot. While Roloson was last year’s postseason darling for the Bolts, the team has turned to former Penguin Garon lately. Garon is 6-0-2 in his last seven games and his play of late has been a major factor in the Lightning’s turnaround.



The last time these two teams play Purcell chipped in a goal and an assist for the Lightning. Purcell has benefited from playing wing with Stamkos. As most team's focus their attention on Stamkos, and rightly so, Purcell has found more holes and space to be affective. Purcell already has 13 goals this season, and should end up setting a new career high in that category (previous: 17 in 2010-11).

Pens defenseman Letang had been quiet on the scoresheet, going six games without a point. He broke that streak in a big way Saturday afternoon with two goals and an assist. But it's on defense where Letang will mostly be needed with the Bolts in town. Letang has rounded into one of the team's best defenders, if not the best defender, and will likely be matched against Stamkos in a shutdown type of role. Expect to see No. 58 log a lot of minutes. His play will be a key factor in the game.

From Pittsburgh's 8-5 Saturday win against Winnipeg.

Evgeni Malkin appeared in his 400th NHL game today. Malkin had his third five-point game of the season (1G-4A) to increase his league-lead to 67 points (30G-37A). Malkin surpassed Kevin Stevens for sole possession of eighth place on the team’s all-time assist list with 296.

James Neal scored the second goal of the first period to tie the game at 2-2. It was his 29th goal of the season, ranking fourth in the NHL. Neal later added an assist on Malkin’s goal to give him 16 points (8G-8A) over his last 13 games. Neal also now has points in four straight home games (3G-4A).

Jordan Staal returned to the lineup since missing 15 games due to a knee injury against the New York Rangers on January 6th. Staal tallied a goal and an assist; Staal now has 23 points (16G-7A) in 35 games.

Richard Park’s third period goal was the 100th of his career and his fifth goal of the year.

Chris Kunitz earned his 15th goal of the season and added three assists to tie a career high with four points (1G-3A). Kunitz has eight points (2G-6A) over his last 10 contests. Kunitz has eight multi-point games this season.

Kris Letang recorded two goals and also had an assist to give him seven points (4G-3A) in 10 games since returning from injury. Letang tied a single-game career high with two goals. 

Brooks Orpik tallied an assist on Richard Park’s goal, giving him four assists in his last 13 games. Orpik finished the game with seven hits and six blocked shots.

Dustin Jeffrey scored the first goal for the Penguins. He has five points (3G-2A) in his last 11 games; the Penguins are 8-1 all-time when he scores a goal.

Marc-Andre Fleury has gone 10-1-1 in his last 12 starts after today’s win. Fleury who ranks third in the NHL with 29 wins this season, has won five straight home games.

Jordan Staal is back. The Penguins center missed 15 games with a knee injury suffered Jan. 6 against the New York Rangers, but returned Saturday against Winnipeg.

Bylsma announced Thursday that Tyler Kennedy has a high-ankle sprain and is looking like 4-6 weeks for recovery. Kennedy sustained the injury late in the third period of Pittsburgh's game against New Jersey on Feb. 5.

F Arron Asham, illness/concussion-like symptoms (12)
C Sidney Crosby, concussion-like symptoms (28)
D Simon Despres, knee (15)
F Tyler Kennedy, high ankle sprain (2)

F Ryan Malone, upper-body (6)
D Mattias Ohlund, knee (43)

Author: Sam Kasan

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