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5:00 PM PT6:00 PM MT7:00 PM CT8:00 PM ET1:00 GMT9:00 6:00 PM MST8:00 PM EST5:00 UAE (+1)20:00 ETNaN:� BRT, January 30, 2019
PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania  Attendance: 18,514

Lightning put eyes on prize in return vs. Penguins

Tampa Bay Lightning at Pittsburgh Penguins

  1. The Lightning beat the Sharks, 6-3, at home on January 19, their last game prior to their bye week and the All-Star break. This is the second consecutive season they've had the best record in the league at the break -- prior to last year, they had never led the NHL at the break.
  2. Nikita Kucherov, a presumptive Hart finalist, added another two assists to his league-leading point total of 78 in the win over San Jose. He has as many games with 3+ points (11) as he does zero points this season.
  3. Tampa Bay has really struggled in Pittsburgh in recent years -- since the 2010-11 season, the Bolts' 2-11-1 record in Pittsburgh is their worst against any opponent, and they've been outscored 69-33 in those games. They did pick up a 4-3 win in a visit there earlier this season in November.
  4. The Penguins fell to the Devils, 6-3, at home on Monday. They've now allowed a combined 35 goals in their last eight games (3-5-0), after allowing just nine total in their prior eight games (8-0-0).
  5. Kris Letang logged 26:43 of ice time against New Jersey on Monday, over six minutes more than any other Penguin. At 31 years old, he's averaging 26:09 this season, which ranks third in the NHL and would rank as the second most in his career (2015-16, 26:57 -- he set a career high in points that season with 67).
  6. The Pens have been nearly twice as successful on the power play on the road as they have at home. Their 32.9 road power-play percentage leads the league, just ahead of Tampa Bay (32.0). But their 16.9 mark at home ranks 20th. That 16.0 percent difference would be the largest in the last 30 years (road better).

Heading into their meeting Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins have contrasting demeanors.

Tampa Bay (37-10-2), comfortably in first place in the Eastern Conference, has been off since Jan. 19 because of a bye week and the All-Star break and has been able to take a couple days to practice, shake some rust and gear up for the stretch run.

The Penguins (26-17-6) also started their break on Jan. 19 but got back to playing Monday and were less than thrilled with their performance in a 6-3 loss to New Jersey. They host Tampa Bay at PPG Paints Arena.

"Having a couple practices ... I think we'll be ready to go on Wednesday," Lightning forward Mathieu Joseph said. "That definitely helps to have a couple practices and get back in the flow a little bit."

Tampa Bay won five of its final seven games heading into its long break and has eyes on sewing up a postseason spot as quickly as possible.

"I think there's still lots that we need to work on, so, hopefully, clean those things up, hopefully get into a playoff spot and then if we do that, just gear up for it in the last few weeks," center Brayden Point said.

The Lightning have their best record coming out of the All-Star break in their history, along with three players in the top 20 in NHL scoring -- including Nikita Kucherov, whose 78 points lead the league.

Getting a little more practice time before jumping back into games is a bonus.

"To get those couple extra days, very beneficial for us, especially a team that's kind of an outlier in where we have to travel," coach Jon Cooper said. "It's good for us to be able to get our legs under us before we play."

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, held a late-afternoon practice Sunday while Tampa Bay was still chilling, then jumped into that game against New Jersey.

The Penguins were blunt about their dissatisfaction with that showing.

"It was a start-to-finish (poor performance)," coach Mike Sullivan said. "A lot of games are won or lost before the puck drops. For me, it starts with a mindset going in. Are you ready to play? Are you more determined than your opponent? And we can control those things."

Sullivan labeled the performance "concerning."

Team captain and All-Star Sidney Crosby was more candid than usual, saying the Penguins lacked energy after the break and were outworked by the Devils.

"As disappointing as that is, and as much as you don't like saying it, that's the truth," Crosby said.

Pittsburgh was 0-for-5 on the power play and gave up a league-high 11th short-handed goal, leading Sullivan to admit that it might be time to change the personnel assignments on the power play.

At practice Tuesday, however, the Penguins uncharacteristically did not work on the power play, leaving any changes a matter of guesswork.

In one bit of positive news for Pittsburgh, defenseman Jack Johnson participated in practice. He left the game against New Jersey with an undisclosed problem, just hours after Pittsburgh traded defenseman Jamie Oleksiak to Dallas.

--Field Level Media

Updated January 29, 2019

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