Tampa Bay (29-25-8) at Pittsburgh (38-16-8)
When: Friday, March 3rd 2017
Where: PPG PAINTS Arena, Pittsburgh, PA
Time: 7:05 ET | TV: NHL Network
The Tampa Bay Lightning are trying to make a playoff push despite trading away three veterans recently and they will visit the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night. Tampa traded away veteran forwards Valtteri Filppula and Brian Boyle along with goaltender Ben Bishop, but that has cleared up a lot of cap space for general manager Steve Yzerman to work with and build this team back into a winner. Nikita Kucherov recorded a career-high nine shots February 19th against Colorado, but failed to register a point, then scored six goals and six assists in the four games since, including a hat trick Monday against Ottawa. Kucherov is picking up the offensive slack while defenseman Victor Hedman has 11 points in the last seven games and center Tyler Johnson has seven in the past four. Backup goalie Peter Budaj, acquired from Los Angeles in the Bishop deal, could get his first start either Friday, or Saturday at Buffalo. The Lightning, who are three points out of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference entering Thursday, have converted 7-of-15 opportunities on the power play in the last six games.
The injury-plagued Penguins have gone just 2-3-1 in their last six contests and could again be without three regulars – including Kris Letang (upper-body), Trevor Daley (knee) and Olli Maatta (hand). Pittsburgh acquired veteran defenseman Mark Streit from the Lightning after they had picked him up in a separate deal with Philadelphia on Wednesday and he could make his debut. The Penguins scored 10 goals in a pair of victories over Tampa Bay earlier this season. Streit has 428 points in 765 NHL games and could be a big help with Daley and Maatta out longer than Letang (day-to-day). Leading scorer and captain Sidney Crosby (67 points) went pointless in two straight games for only the second time this season while Evgeni Malkin (62) has four goals and four assists in his last eight games. Phil Kessel is third on the team with 56 points, but has none in the last three games and one in the past six. Pittsburgh is tied with Columbus for the third-seed in the East entering play on Thursday.
With the key injuries Pittsburgh has going on right now, I can’t lay this much money against a Tampa Bay team who is getting hot. Tampa has won four of five overall and their power play is on fire.
Pick: Lightning +155
HEAD TO HEAD
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