The Pittsburgh Penguins look to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday, November 30th, at 7 pm EST, at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. The Penguins are coming off a tough 3-2 overtime loss to the Nashville Predators on Tuesday and will be looking to take a step forward tonight in Tampa. The Lightning are also riding a loss, theirs coming in Arizona against the Coyotes, 3-2. Both teams have been struggling to get wins and are finding themselves in challenging territory near the bottom of their respective divisions. As both teams continue to struggle, depending on the outcome, this game could be a turning point for either team.
Coming Into Tonight
The Lightning, currently in 5th in the Atlantic division, hold a 10-8-5 record, having lost three of their last four games. Tampa’s usual starting goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy, who missed the first 20 games of the season after having surgery on his back, made his season debut on Friday, November 24th, with an 8-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh. Even though backup Jonas Johansson was playing remarkably well in his absence, having Vasilevskiy back is a massive boost to this already dangerous Tampa team. However, having lost both games in their recent back-to-back, the Lightning will be hungry for a win tonight.
The Penguins last game against the Predators was one they can be proud of. Although the final score didn’t err in their favor, they played a very well-rounded game. If it weren’t for a few tough penalties and Nashville being able to capitalize on the few mistakes they made, the outcome of this game could have been very different. Coming into the game tonight, Pittsburgh is sitting barely above .500 with a frustrating record of 10-10-1, having lost three of their last four games. Pittsburgh is a frustrated team looking to break the downward trend of the previous few games, and their hunger to win will undoubtedly be proved tonight against Tampa.
Players To Keep An Eye On
Besides Andrei Vasilevskiy, who is always a threat in net, one player to keep an eye on from Tampa is Brayden Point. Point is well over a point per game this season, with 12 goals and 18 assists in 23 games. He’s second on the team in both goals and points, just behind Nikita Kucherov. Point is an excellent playmaker and can move the puck well. He hit his stride early this season, and if he can continue his offensive excellence in front of the hometown crowd tonight in Tampa, you can be sure he will make a substantial impact for the Lightning.
Bryan Rust is the player to watch for Pittsburgh in tonight’s game. After returning from injury, Bryan Rust entered Tuesday’s game against Nashville and made an immediate impact, lighting the lamp for the game’s equalizer at two. Rust is always a threat with the puck, both in setting up plays and finishing them. He is solid both on the power play and the penalty kill, and he has a physical aspect to his play that makes his game unique and fun to watch. Undoubtedly, Rust will be an impactful player in tonight’s game.
The Lightning are a fast team at times, but they are also relatively old. Their style of play is similar to that of Pittsburgh in that they depend significantly on sustained pressure and don’t play as much of a transition game. Pittsburgh has the ability to play the way Tampa does.
Overall, while the Penguins haven’t played bad hockey as of late, their two significant issues have been that they have been making too many costly mistakes due to poor decision-making and haven’t finished games well. The penalty kill has had to bail this team out in the past few games, so they must also stay disciplined. If they can’t fix these problems, you can be sure they won’t be able to win tonight.
In addition, whenever you’re playing a top-tier goalie like Vasilevskiy, volume of shots is vital. Pittsburgh must be putting pucks on net and getting sustained offensive pressure in order to wear Vasilevskiy down. On top of that, they must also play on their toes in the neutral zone, win battles, and stay on the right side of the puck.
Overall, Pittsburgh and Tampa seem to be very evenly matched, with Tampa having the goaltending edge. Both teams are floundering after their past few games and are also looking to make their way up the divisional standings. Both Pittsburgh and Tampa are star-studded, and watching stars like Kucherov and Crosby face off against each other is always exciting. Tonight’s game is vital to both teams, and you can be sure it will be a heated contest on both sides.
This game is the first in the Pittsburgh/Tampa season series and will be available to watch live on SportsNet Pittsburgh and Bally Sports Sun and is available to stream on ESPN+