Two of the Eastern Conference’s best teams meet Thursday night in Tampa, Fla., as the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning are set to face off. Each team has been hot coming out of the All-Star break, and sit in second place in the Metropolitan and Atlantic divisions, respectively.
Here is a preview for Thursday’s battle between the Penguins and Lightning at Amalie Arena.
We’ll start with the Penguins, who had won eight of their last 10 games heading into a Tuesday night clash with Vegas. Pittsburgh is seventh in goals per game with 3.33 on 32.2 shots per game, also a top 10 average in the NHL. The Penguins have a solid 10.3 shooting percentage and have a power-play percentage of 19.9, 14th in the league.
Defensively, the Penguins are strong. Right now, Pittsburgh is allowing just 2.73 goals per game on just under 30 shots per game. The penalty kill has also been very good, ranking eighth with an 82.1 percent success rate.
The Lightning have been just as solid as Pittsburgh lately, going 7-2-1 over their last 10 games. Tampa Bay is third in the NHL with 3.58 goals per game and has the league’s best shooting percentage at 11.3.
As expected, the Lightning have one of the best power plays in the league at 25.3 percent, ranking third in the NHL.
Tampa Bay has also been fairly solid on defense. The Lightning are giving up 2.79 goals per game, ninth in the league, while allowing 31.1 shots per contest. Their penalty kill has also been excellent, ranking fourth in the league with an 83.6 percent success rate.
Despite only playing in 24 games this season due to injury, Sidney Crosby is back to his All-Star ways. The captain had a goal and three assists in the first two games following the All-Star break, giving him nine goals and 20 assists on the season.
Other veterans like Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang have stepped up recently as well. Malkin has matched Crosby over those two games with a goal and three assists, giving him 54 points in 39 games this year.
As for Letang, the defenseman had a goal and assist against the Flyers, and now has 33 points in 44 games.
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos has been the main one leading this surge for Tampa Bay. Stamkos had a goal and an assist against San Jose, bringing him to six goals and six assists in his seven-game point streak. Through 49 games, the 29-year-old captain has 23 goals and 33 assists.
But Tampa Bay is incredibly deep, with other stars like Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point joining the mix. Kucherov, last year’s Hart Trophy winner, has a seven-game point streak as well with seven goals and five assists, bringing him to a team-leading 61 points.
Point has gone three straight games with an assist, which brings him to 28 assists to go along with 18 goals.
Rookie Tristan Jarry has taken over for Matt Murray and will likely start on Thursday for the Penguins. Jarry is 17-8-1 with a 2.19 GAA and a .928 save percentage.
Meanwhile, the Lightning are expected to hand the net to last year’s Vezina Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vasilevskiy is 26-9-3 with a 2.55 GAA and a .917 save percentage.