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NHL on NBCSN: Lightning’s Stamkos continues scoring race vs Penguins

Apr 11, 2013, 8:04 AM EDT

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 4: Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning reacts to his goal with Martin St. Louis #26 in front of Marc-Andre Fleury #29 and Joe Vitale #46 of the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 4, 2013 at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images) Getty Images

NBCSN’s ongoing coverage of the 2013 campaign will continue tonight when the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Tampa Bay Times Forum at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Perhaps the scariest part about the Pittsburgh Penguins this season is that they’re still a threat to win even with some of their big names injured. James Neal and Sidney Crosby are out, but the Penguins still have Evgeni Malkin and Jarome Iginla.

They played their previous five contests without defensemen Paul Martin or Kris Letang and they still won three of those matches.

At this point, Pittsburgh has already locked up its division and the only question is if it can claim the first seed.

Meanwhile, Tampa Bay is out of the playoff race, but that doesn’t mean this game is pointless. This will be a key test for goaltender Ben Bishop as the Lightning see if he can be just as successful with them as he was with Ottawa.

The Lightning traded away Calder Trophy candidate Cory Conacher to get Bishop and so far the move has paid off. However, Pittsburgh will arguably be his greatest challenge yet.

Bishop has only played against the Penguins once before and he was yanked halfway through that contest after allowing three goals on 20 shots.

This is also another key game in the Rocket Richard Trophy race. Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos is tied with Alex Ovechkin at 26 goals each. Stamkos has played in one less game, but given how hot Ovechkin has been lately, he needs every advantage he can get.

With 50 points, Stamkos is also attempting to surpass the injured Crosby and potentially win his first Art Ross Trophy. His teammate Martin St. Louis is also a candidate for the Art Ross Trophy with 49 points. St. Louis hasn’t won the award since 2003–04, so it would be special to see the 37-year-old reclaim it after that long of a gap.

Beyond that, the Penguins are going to battle hard in this game. Even if they don’t have much left to compete for from a seeding perspective, they want to avoid a third consecutive first-round exit. They can help prevent that by building momentum that they can carry into the playoffs.

At that point, they might have all their big-name players back and the Penguins will look even more dangerous…

Probable goaltenders: PIT – Marc-Andre Fleury (20-6-0, 2.31 GAA, .917 SV%) | TBL – Bishop (10-7-0, 2.35 GAA, .928 SV%)

Top scorers: PIT – Crosby (15-41-56, 36 GP) | TBL – Stamkos (26-24-50, 39 GP)

Notable Injuries:
Pittsburgh – Forwards: Neal (concussion), Crosby (jaw) Defensemen: Martin (hand), Letang (toe/groin – might return tonight)
Tampa Bay – Defensemen: Victor Hedman (lower body), Mattias Ohlund (knee) Goaltenders: Anders Lindback (ankle)

  1. hockeywithdrawal - Apr 11, 2013 at 8:09 AM

    Should be a good game, hate to see Hedman out but I’m glad he’s out for this one. The Pens will be all hands on deck when Stamkos and St. Louis are on the ice!

    Hoping Letang is back (if he’s good to go now), anyone heard? AND QUIT SCRATCHING DESPRES, BYLSMA!

    • hockeywithdrawal - Apr 11, 2013 at 8:09 AM

      Sorry – meant ‘hate to see Hedman injured, but glad he’s sitting out tonight vs. the Pens’.

    • JoeAvg - Apr 11, 2013 at 10:09 AM

      Despres still has plenty to learn. Barring injury problems I wouldn’t expect to see him too much during the playoffs. Next season will be his time to bloom.

      • hockeywithdrawal - Apr 11, 2013 at 12:09 PM

        See that I agree with – I don’t expect to see him much in the playoffs – but I’d expect to see him now, already having clinched the division, when other teams are playing their hardest. If for no other reason than to give the other guys a breather if needed.

        He’s making bad decisions getting the puck out of the zone, but has shown a lot of talent. I can’t see him fixing his problems without the ice time (game situations). If they DO need him due to injury in the playoffs, and haven’t let him work through his decision making as much as possible, he’s going to be more of a liability.

    • killerpgh - Apr 11, 2013 at 12:12 PM

      I don’t understand the scratching of Despres either. Why call him back up just to be a healthy scratch. He needs to play to develope. If that’s in WBS or Pittsburgh can be debatable. But calling him up to not play in games is the wrong why to go about it. I like both Burtuzzo and Engelland, but I don’t see a need to uses both of them. Especially as a defensive pairing. To me either one of those 2 with Despres is a better pairing.

  2. gotampabay52 - Apr 11, 2013 at 8:55 AM

    Go Bolts

  3. ravenscaps48 - Apr 11, 2013 at 9:14 AM

    Shut him down, Pittsburgh!

    • jpelle82 - Apr 11, 2013 at 10:21 AM

      he scores against pitt on a regular basis these days 3 goals in 2 games this year. the fact that you are rooting for the penguins just so that your favorite player can get closer to winning an individual award is hilarious to me though.

      • ravenscaps48 - Apr 11, 2013 at 10:53 AM

        They shut him down, it most likely means the Tampa will not win. Which also distances that team from the Capitals in the division race. Not what I had in mind there fella. Go be an asshole somewhere else

      • jpelle82 - Apr 11, 2013 at 12:04 PM

        ok guy, because tb is really nipping at the heels of the caps. 8 pts down in the division with 8 games left – they are closer to florida and the bottom than to the top. i would think a caps fan would want to see the team that has defeated them in every playoff series to date start to lose games going into the playoffs instead. nice damage control attempt though

    • ironman721 - Apr 11, 2013 at 11:54 AM

      A ravens/caps fan rooting for a Pittsburgh team… I like it! Might be a sign of the apocalypse but I like it!👍

      • ravenscaps48 - Apr 11, 2013 at 12:05 PM

        I’m a Capitals fan. Whatever helps the team out, I am for

      • jpelle82 - Apr 11, 2013 at 12:41 PM

        then why would you say “shut HIM down”…since youre such a team guy, why would you care if stamkos scores, you only care if tb loses right?

      • ravenscaps48 - Apr 11, 2013 at 2:03 PM

        Refer back to the other comment. You shut down Stamkos, you most likely win the game.

      • phlyerzpwnu - Apr 11, 2013 at 11:27 PM

        “You shut down Stamkos, you most likely win the game.”

        ?? what? really, you sure about that?! I mean sure the Pens shut him down and they won…but I think you are back tracking here. Under this logic, the Bolts should be in first place and have already won 30 or so games…Stamkos hasn’t been shut down much all season. Just admit, you want him shut down so Ovi can win the Rocket..its okay.

  4. steelpenbucs87 - Apr 11, 2013 at 9:27 AM

    I would love to see the defense get its head on straight today versus Stamkos and Co. Despite the fact that they’re out of the playoff race, TB still poses a difficult challenge offensively. Holding them to two goals or less without Martin (and probably Letang) would be a great sign.

  5. myroncopesflask - Apr 11, 2013 at 10:19 AM

    I wish the Pens would wrapped Letang in bubblewrap and lock him in a padded room until the playoffs start. Most would say that I am crazy but Letang is the most important player on the Pens. The entire dynamic of our offense takes a hit when he is missing.

    Also agree with the above statement about Despres.. He needs to be in our lineup instead of Bortuzzo or D.E. I’m starting to get the feeling he really has done something chap Disco Dan’s ass because his play has not warranted being in the dog house this long.

  6. boltsfan777 - Apr 11, 2013 at 10:29 AM

    It stinks that the Bolts won’t make the playoffs, even though they aren’t really ready to go deep. This sure has the same mediocre feeling as last year at this time. Individual player trophies just don’t cut it. The playoffs are a must watch anyway.

    For the Pens, I think the bitterness of last years series vs Philly still lingers, so I would look for them to be skating hard every minute of every playoff game. I think Crosby will wear whatever mechanical headgear he needs to get his ice time.

    • jpelle82 - Apr 11, 2013 at 10:43 AM

      not to mention the nature of the pens lineup right now. you have 4 guys playing right now that are coming from another team and trying to make a mark in pittsburgh. you have guys like bennett, kennedy, glass, vitale, jeffrey all fighting for their own way to contribute to this team, get more minutes, or just keep a sweater on any given night. and then on the blue line you have a guy like mark eaton who has resurrected his career along with a bortuzzo trying to make a name for himself. all good reasons to be personally skating their a$$es off

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