The Pittsburgh Penguins (1-0-0) didn’t need to say it, but Evgeni Malkin hinted at it. The Penguins played well in their first game of the season, a 6-2 win, but it was over the lowly Arizona Coyotes. The Penguins will get a stiffer challenge Saturday against the three-time Stanley Cup finalist, Tampa Bay Lightning (1-1-0), at PPG Paints Arena.
The puck drops just after 7 p.m.
Before the game, the team will honor long-time equipment manager Dana Heinze, who recently retired after 34 years in hockey. Heinze began as the equipment manager for the Johnstown Chiefs before moving on to the New Jersey Devils, Tampa Bay Lightning and 16 years with the Penguins.
The Penguins and Lightning are the two most successful Eastern Conference teams of the last 15 years. Both teams have made four Stanley Cup Final appearances in that time and won back-to-back Stanley Cups. The Penguins also won in 2009, while Tampa Bay lost the Stanley Cup Final in 2015 (Chicago) and 2022 (Colorado).
The Penguins’ stars shined on Thursday. Evgeni Malkin scored a power-play goal, and his line with Bryan Rust and Jason Zucker scored two even-strength goals. Sidney Crosby had three points (1-2-3). Jake Guentzel, Kris Letang, Rust, and Zucker all had two points.
The game against the Lightning will also feature the two longest-tenured head coaches in the NHL. Mike Sullivan has been the Penguins’ bench boss since December 2015. Jon Cooper has been in charge of the Lightning since March 2013.
What to Watch:
Like the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Tampa Bay Lightning are strong down the middle. Brayden Point and Steve Stamkos are the Lightning’s top two centers. Malkin may get a good challenge trying to keep the puck away from the speedy Stamkos, but that’s also part of Rust’s and Zucker’s job description.
The Penguins’ defense is still coming together. There are a few new faces, including former Lightning d-man Jan Rutta, who won a pair of Stanley Cup rings with them. Young defenseman P.O Joseph didn’t have his best game on Thursday, and a couple of gaffes led to scoring chances against. Joseph will remain in the lineup based on the Friday practice lines.
Sullivan called the Jospeh-Rutta pairing “solid’ and said they “kept it simple” after the win over Arizona on Thursday. However, Joseph has more to give and must claim that spot, or Sullivan could flip Rutta to the left side and re-insert Chad Ruhwedel into the lineup.
Teddy Blueger remained in a non-contact jersey on Friday. He is most likely out.
The Penguins may catch a break, however. Brian Elliott, not Andrei Vasilevskiy, is expected to start for Tampa Bay.
Expected Penguins Lines
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Bryan Rust|
|Jason Zucker||Evgeni Malkin||Rickard Rakell|
|Danton Heinen||Ryan Poehling||Kasperi Kapanen|
|Brock McGinn||Sam Poulin||Drew O'Connor|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Marcus Pettersson||Jeff Petry|
|P.O Joseph||Jan Rutta|
Expected Lightning Lines, per Puckpedia
Penguins PP: 2-6 (33%, 9th NHL). PK: 2-5 (60%, 18th NHL)
Lightning PP: 2-8 (25%, 15th NHL). PK: 1-8 (87.5%. 13th NHL)
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes
*Last season, the Penguins were 2-1-0 against the Lightning. On Mar. 3, 2022, the Penguins held the Lightning to 21 shots on goal in a compelling 5-1 win. Evgeni Malkin had three points (1-2-3), which was one of his three three-plus point games of the season.
*The Penguins are 16-6-3 in their last 25 home games vs. the Lightning.
*Kris Letang has 36 points (5-31-36) in 41 career games vs. Tampa Bay. He has more points against the Lightning than any other non-Metropolitan Division team.
*Watch Jason Zucker — He has nine goals (9-2-11) in 16 career games against the Lightning and a shooting percentage of 27.3%.
*Sidney Crosby is two points behind Doug Gilmour (1414) for 19th on the NHL all-time scorers list.
How to Watch:
TV: AT&T SportsNet, NHL Network
Radio: 105.9 The X