Game Preview: vs Tampa Bay Lightning - January 8, 2016



Pittsburgh Penguins (25-8-5; 3rd Metro) vs Tampa Bay Lightning (19-18-4; 5th Atlantic)
January 8, 2016 @ 5:00 PM - PPG Paints Arena
TV: Root Sports Pittsburgh


It's a hockey night in Pittsburgh! For the first time in 2017, the Penguins will take the ice, and they should be well rested as they've had the past eight games off after being the first team in the league to take the new "bye week" off. Despite the time off, the Pens haven't fallen much in the standings, with just three teams having accumulated more points and only one with a better point per game played average. They'll look to pick back up where they left off against their 2016 ECF opponent.

For the second year in a row, the Tampa Bay Lightning have followed up an appearance in the conference finals with an underwhelming regular season campaign that currently sees them five points outside the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. They've had to deal with some injuries to big names as well. Captain Steven Stamkos was limited to just 17 games so far this season, with a torn meniscus keeping him out of the lineup until March at the earliest. 

Ben Bishop has been out with a lower body injury as well for the Lightning, and he remains week-to-week. While healthy, Bishop has seen his numbers plummet, with his 0.907 SV% and 2.79 GAA currently standing as the worst of his career. It hasn't mattered who has been in the crease in Tampa though, as the Lightning have fallen to 23rd in the league with 2.90 goals allowed per game after ranking 5th last season (2.41 GA/gm). Andrei Vasilevskiy has posted similar numbers to Bishop in his 20 starts with a 0.908 SV% and 2.82 GAA on the year.

But while the team as a whole has struggled, the Lightning still have some high end players playing at an elite level. Despite missing 7 games, Nikita Kucherov still ranks 7th in the league with 39 points (16g, 23a), and his 1.15 pt/gm average ranks 3rd in the league behind only Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid. On the blue line, Victor Hedman continues to establish himself as one of the best two way players in the league. Hedman is second in the league among defensemen with 36 points (7g, 29a), and while his 51.5 CF% is down a bit from previous seasons, it still compares favorably to the 49.4 CF% the Lightning have with him off the ice.

Notes

- The NHL released the captains for the All Star Game, and Sidney Crosby will captain the Metropolitan Division team.

- The whole team had a strong month of December, and Evgeni Malkin was recognized as the NHL's second star of the month.

- The Pens sent Tristan Jarry and Chad Ruhwedel back to Wilkes-Barre at the start of the team's bye week, and they've recalled both back to the NHL club with the team set to resume action.
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