Game Preview: at Tampa Bay Lightning - December 10, 2016 - PensInitiative | Pittsburgh Penguins Blog | Rumors | News

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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Game Preview: at Tampa Bay Lightning - December 10, 2016

Pittsburgh Penguins (17-7-3; 2nd Metro) at Tampa Bay Lightning (14-12-2; 4th Atlantic)
December 10, 2016 @ 7:30 PM - BB&T Center
TV: Root Sports Pittsburgh

The Penguins finish off their Florida road trip with a rematch of last season's Eastern Conference Finals, and they enter the game on a roll, having won each of their four December games to match their season high winning streak. They'll look to make it five straight against the Lightning in their first trip back to Amalie Arena since winning Game 6 to send the series back to Pittsburgh for a decisive Game 7.

With the Lightning facing a tight salary cap season last offseason, GM Steve Yzerman scored a major coup when he was able to re-sign captain Steven Stamkos to an 8 year, $68 million days before he was set to hit unrestricted free agency. The $8.5 million AAV was likely millions below what he could have received on the open market, specifically if his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs wanted to ensure that they brought him home. But Stamkos has had bad luck with injuries in recent years, missing the final months of last season after surgery to remove a blood clot before returning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. This year hasn't been any kinder, as Stamkos will miss an estimated 4-6 months with a torn meniscus.

It's a blow to the Lightning's chances this season, but Tampa Bay isn't at a loss for offensive talent. Nikita Kucherov led the team with 66 points (30g, 36a) last season, and he's in the midst of having an even better year in 2016-17 as he currently is tied for third in the league with 29 points. Like Stamkos, Kucherov was a free agent during the 2016 offseason, albeit a restricted one, but his deal was a much bigger challenge for Yzerman and the team. Finally, on October 11th, just two days before Tampa opened the season, the team came to terms with Kucherov on a 3 year, $14.3 million contract just in the nick of time. While the $4.766 million AAV bridge deal does wonders for the team's cap position in the short term, Kucherov will likely be in line for a significant raise on his next contract, though the team will retain his rights at the end of the contract.



- The Penguins are undefeated so far in the month of December, outscoring their opposition 24-11 in their four games.

- Justin Schultz has turned his career around in Pittsburgh, and he's currently in the midst of a career-high 5 game point streak (3g, 5a)

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