Pittsburgh Penguins (33-14-8) head coach Mike Sullivan dismissed any notion that his team’s next two games are a measuring stick. The Penguins measure themselves against themselves, Sullivan asserted. However, for the rest of us, the Penguins battles against the Eastern Conference elite will tell us where they stand.
And we suspect the Penguins visit to the Tampa Bay Lightning (35-11-6) on Thursday night will also tell them a bit about where they stand, too.
“Every game is a measuring stick for us, and the one we hold is to ourselves,” Sullivan said on Wednesday.
Offensive has been an issue for the Penguins, which have just 15 even-strength goals in their last 10 games. The Penguins power play has been the life raft.
The Penguins have won two in a row after some ugly hockey and a three-game losing streak. They beat the New York Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets to reclaim second place in the Metropolitan Division. The Penguins are five points behind division-leading Carolina Hurricanes, and Carolina has two games in hand.
Tampa Bay is in a three-way battle with Florida and Toronto for the top spot in the Atlantic Division. They currently lead Florida by one point but has just a two-point lead on third place, Toronto.
Tampa Bay has won five in a row and is 8-1-1 in their last 10 games.
Yes, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions are really good, even if they’ve won a pair of Cups in a bubble and COVID shortened season, which followed a longer than typical offseason.
The Penguins have to prove they are good. Their lineup will be the same or similar to their last two games. Mark Friedman will take the third pairing’s left side, and Jeff Carter remains in the middle on the third line.
Tristan Jarry is the likely puck stopper for the Penguins, and he’ll face Vezina Trophy favorite Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Expected Pittsburgh Penguins Lines
|Jake Guentzel||Sidney Crosby||Bryan Rust|
|Rickard Rakell||Evgeni Malkin||Kasperi Kapanen|
|Jason Zucker||Jeff Carter||Danton Heinen|
|Brock McGinn||Teddy Blueger||Evan Rodrigues|
|Mike Matheson||Kris Letang|
|Marcus Pettersson||John Marino|
|Mark Friedman||Chad Ruhwedel|
Expected Lightning Lines, per PuckPedia.com:
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Tampa Bay is a bigger favorite than I expected. We like the Penguins (+145) if we’re taking the Moneyline. The Penguins can’t score, and Tampa Bay is stingy. This has 3-2 written all over it. We also like the Under 5 (+210).
Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes:
INJURIES Position, Player, Status: F Jason Zucker, lower-body (17 consecutive, 24 total). G Louis Domingue, lower-body (17 consecutive, 17 total). F Teddy Blueger, upper-body (14 consecutive, 15 total). D Mike Matheson, upper-body (2 consecutive, 5 total).
*The Penguins are 7-1-0 in their last eight road games.
*The Penguins begin their eighth set of back-to-back games. The Penguins are 9-3-2 in back-to-backs (5-1-1 on the first night; 4-2-1 on the second night).
*Tristan Jarry has nine wins against the Atlantic Division this season, which is tied for second-most among goaltenders behind Igor Shesterkin (12).
*Defenseman Kris Letang has 35 points (5G-30A) in 40 career games versus Tampa Bay. He has more points against the Lightning than any other non-Metropolitan Division team.
How to Watch:
TV: AT&T SportsNet; Radio: 105.9 The X)