TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 09: Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) and Washington Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov (9) battle for the puck in the 1st period of the NHL game between the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning on October 09, 2017 at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Vegas Golden Knights vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Tuesday, Feb. 5, 7:30 p.m.
Season Series: Tampa Leads 1-0
St. Louis Blues vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Thursday, Feb. 7, 7:30 p.m.
Season Series: First Meeting
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Thursday, Feb. 9, 7 p.m.
Season Series: Series Tied 1-1
After a 10-day layoff and three straight games on the road to open the second half of the season, the Tampa Bay Lightning will spend the next two weeks in the Sunshine State as they look to build their playoff resume.
The Lightning will host games against Vegas (Tuesday), St. Louis (Thursday) and Pittsburgh (Saturday) before hitting the road for a contest against the Panthers in South Florida and returning home for three games next week.
In search of the top seed in the East, Tampa holds a 14-point lead in the conference with 30 games remaining in the season.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper said that lead in the standings the Bolts have built comes thanks to a group in the locker room that has found a way to keep winning, even after falling behind in games.
“It takes leadership and attitude, knowing that you can win any game,” Cooper said. “That’s not going to happen, but you need that, especially if you want to play deep into the spring.”
Tampa’s second half march toward a spot in the NHL’s postseason started slowly with a 4-2 loss in Pittsburgh. The team struggled to find the net two nights later against the New York Islanders, going scoreless in regulation. Thanks, however, to the efforts of goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and his 35 saves, the Islanders failed to find the net as well. Victor Hedman finally scored in a shootout and Vasilevskiy made two critical saves to preserve the win.
The Lightning followed up their victory against the Islanders the next night with a 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.
About the Lightning:
Who’s Hot: With its win in a shootout against the New York Islanders on Saturday night, the Lightning improved to 4-0 in shootouts this season. Montreal (2-0), Philadelphia (2-0) and Edmonton (3-0) are the only other teams in the league, to have played in, and not lost a shootout.
Who’s Not: Tampa is 1-1 against Pittsburgh this season, but has made a habit of getting off to slow starts against the Penguins. In the teams’ first meeting in Pittsburgh, the Pens grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first 14 minutes of play before Brayden Point scored with three seconds left in the first period to help the Bolts mount a comeback charge in a 4-3 win. Before the Bolts could get their legs back under them after their 10-day break, the Penguins had a stifling 4-0 advantage, netting three of those goals in the opening frame. Pittsburgh didn’t look back from there in a 4-2 win.
About the Golden Knights:
After making a run to the Stanley Cup Finals last year in its first season of existence, it is safe to say that Vegas will not be sneaking up on anyone this season.
The Golden Knights, however, have continued their strong play and are in position to make the playoffs once again this season.
Vegas has fared much better at home than it has in opponents’ rinks this season. The Golden Knights are 16-6-3 in Vegas, but only 13-15-1 away from home. They have lost their last three road games and come into Tampa as losers of their last four overall, scoring only six goals in those contests.
Former Bolt, Johnathan Marchessault, continues to be a scoring force for the Golden Knights. Marchessault leads the team with 17 goals and is second on the squad in points with 35.
Marc Andre Fluery, the former first overall pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins, is a familiar face in net for the Golden Knights. He will look to stop a three-game losing streak on Tuesday night. In those losses, the Vegas netminder has allowed seven goals.
About the Blues:
The 2018-19 season has been one that is out of character for the usually consistent St. Louis Blues. A perennial playoff contender, the Blues find themselves three points out of the wild card standings in the West.
St. Louis has shown improvement as the season has gone on and is 8-5-0 in the new year.
Newcomer Ryan O’Reilly has been a solid addition at center for the Blues this season. He leads the team in goals (19), assists (33) and points (52).
Vladimir Tarasenko is a mainstay on the Blues’ offense and has amassed 18 goals and 17 assists this season. He is tied with David Perron for second on the team with 35 points.
The Blues have been looking to find an answer in net this season, with Jake Allen struggling between the pipes with a 3.04 GAA.
Rookie Jordan Binnington is a candidate to supplant Allen in goal. He has an impressive 1.86 GAA in his eight games played this year. He has started four of the last five for the Blues, coming away with wins in three of those games.
About the Penguins:
Tampa will close out its 2018-19 regular-season series with the Penguins in a tie-breaker between two teams that very could see each other in the postseason.
The Penguins handled the Lightning in the teams’ last meeting, 4-2, then went on to split a pair of games, defeating Ottawa 5-3, before falling to Toronto 3-2. Pittsburgh will face off with Carolina and Florida before making its way to Tampa.
Pittsburgh is second in the conference – behind Tampa – with 183 goals. Sidney Crosby (23), Phil Kessel (21) and Evgeni Malkin (14) have accounted for 58 of those goals – 21 of which have come on the power play.
Matt Murray has faced 61 shots in net from the Lightning this season, stopping 55 of those from going in.
Tampa remains in-state when it travels to South Florida on Sunday evening to face the Panthers at 6 p.m. before hosting Calgary, Dallas and Montreal next week.
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