What to Watch For: Pens vs. Lightning
Friday, 02.24.2012 / 4:44 PM ET / Features
By Michelle Crechiolo
PENGUINS (34-21-5) vs. LIGHTNING (27-27-6)
WHEN: Feb. 25, 2012 - 1:00 pm | WHERE: CONSOL Energy Center
WATCH: ROOT SPORTS | LISTEN: Penguins 24/7 Radio, 105.9 FM
Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman has begun the process of rebuilding a team that’s currently six points out of the playoff picture.
Last week, he sent gritty forward Dominic Moore to San Jose for a second-round pick. Yzerman then traded defenseman Pavel Kubina to Philadelphia for a prospect and a pair of draft picks and followed that up with sending forward Steve Downie to Colorado for defenseman Kyle Quincey – who he then flipped to Detroit for a first-round pick.
In addition to dealing with the emotions that go with the departures of several popular teammates, the Bolts are currently without captain Vincent Lecavalier as he suffered a non-displaced fracture in his right hand in practice on February 18 and is out indefinitely.
But despite all of the turbulence surrounding them, the guys who are still in the Bolts locker room have been finding ways to win. They’ve taken three of their last four – each one of those wins coming hours after seeing a teammate flipped for draft picks – and are 10-4-2 in their last 16 games.
Young phenom Steven Stamkos continues to produce at a blistering pace and carry the team as best he can, as his three-point effort in Thursday’s 4-3 loss to Winnipeg placed him into a tie for the NHL scoring lead with Evgeni Malkin. Not only is he in contention for the Art Ross Trophy, but Stamkos is also currently the runaway candidate for the Maurice Richard Trophy as his 43 goals lead the NHL.
The skilled sniper, who turned 22 earlier this month, has 11 points in a four-game scoring streak and has been centering a line with another hot Bolt in Teddy Purcell. Purcell has also been on a tear, piling up nine points (3G-6A) in his last four games.
Yzerman did take a break from trading players on Thursday by claiming former Penguin Tim Wallace off waivers. He joined the team today and should be in the lineup for Saturday’s game. Wallace has played in 31 games this season for the New York Islanders with one assist and six penalty minutes, averaging 8:40 of ice time.
And though goalie Mathieu Garon got pulled Thursday against the Jets, he’s still a respectable 8-3-2 in his last 13 appearances and will be looking for a chance to bounce back Saturday against Pittsburgh.
LIGHTNING: TEDDY PURCELL
Purcell has been on a tear recently, as he enters Saturday’s game riding a four-game point streak where he’s piled up three goals and six assists, including a pair of back-to-back three-point efforts in his last two games. Overall, he’s got points in eight of his last nine games for a total of 14 points (3G-11A) in that span. Look for Purcell – who’s just one goal shy of tying his career high of 17 set last season – to be a factor on Tampa Bay’s top line alongside Steven Stamkos.
PENGUINS: PASCAL DUPUIS
Dupuis has collected eight points (2G-5A) in his last 14 games, and the veteran forward has been knocking at the door for more with the way he’s been playing lately. Dupuis possesses a rocket shot that he’s been trying to get off at every opportunity, which he’s been getting plenty of on a line with Steve Sullivan and Jordan Staal, and it should pay off soon enough for the versatile winger.
Pittsburgh is 7-1 in its last eight home games. They have scored four or more goals in five of the eight contests.
The Penguins are 6-2-1 in their last nine one-goal games. Meanwhile, the Lightning are 17-2-6 in one-goal games this season, which is the second-highest winning percentage in such games behind New Jersey's 19-4-4 (.704) mark.
Tampa Bay is tied with Ottawa, Nashville, Boston and Colorado with the most wins in the league (6) when trailing after 40 minutes.
With goalie Brent Johnson day-to-day after tweaking something at Thursday's practice, the Pens recalled Brad Thiessen from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday afternoon. It's unsure at this point whether Johnson will be able to dress Saturday or not.
Defenseman Brooks Orpik, who sat out Tuesday's game with an upper-body injury but has practiced the last two days, is still day-to-day at this point in time.
Defenseman Matt Niskanen missed Thursday's practice due to illness, but was back on the ice Friday and he hopes to play Saturday.
"I'm better today than the last couple of days," he said. "We're around each other a lot so if one guy gets it, (it spreads). Hopefully, I don't spread it around to anybody else.
"I hope I'm ready to go (Saturday). Nothing is official yet. I'm feeling a lot better today than the last couple of days, so I think I'll be ready for tomorrow."
In addition, Tyler Kennedy has a high-ankle sprain and is approximately 4-6 weeks for recovery. Kennedy sustained the injury late in the third period of Pittsburgh's game against New Jersey on Feb. 5, and on Monday, the Penguins placed him on injured reserve retroactive to that date. He can be removed at any time.
C Sidney Crosby, concussion-like symptoms (33)
D Brooks Orpik, upper body (1)
F Tyler Kennedy, high ankle sprain (7)
F Vincent Lecavalier, upper body (2)
D Mattias Ohlund, knee (60)
F Dana Tyrell, torn ACL (16)
Author: Michelle Crechiolo