TAMPA BAY (KDKA) – The Pittsburgh Penguins have wrapped up the Atlantic Division and will now set their sights on taking another step toward securing the top seed in the Eastern Conference, when they take on the Tampa Bay Lighting Thursday night.
Currently, the Penguins hold a four-point lead over the Boston Bruins in the race for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Montreal is only one point behind the Bruins as well.
With Tuesday’s comeback win over the Carolina Hurricanes, the Penguins clinched the Atlantic Division and at least the No. 2 seed in the playoffs.
With eight games left in the season, the focus will be on building chemistry and getting healthy in time for the playoffs.
Currently, the Penguins are without the services of Sidney Crosby (broken jaw), Paul Martin (hand surgery), Kris Letang (lower-body injury) and James Neal (concussion).
Letang has been practicing with the team and appears to be the closest to returning to the lineup. There was speculation that he could return on Tuesday, but he did not. It is not known if tonight will be the night he gets back in the lineup.
As for Tampa Bay, their playoff hopes are still mathematically alive, but it would take a lot of work and help for them to sneak in.
The Lightning enter tonight’s game 13th in the Eastern Conference and are eight points behind the New York Rangers for the final spot.
Tampa Bay is 2-2-1 in the month of April and are coming off a 3-2 home win over the Ottawa Senators Tuesday night.
At the trade deadline, the Lightning acquired goaltender Ben Bishop (10-7, 2.35 GAA, .928 save percentage) from the Senators. In four games with his new club, Bishop is 2-2 and posted a 45-save shutout in his debut against the Hurricanes on April 4.
Bishop has only seen the Penguins once in his career and allowed three goals on 20 shots in 29 minutes of work.
Steven Stamkos continues to pace the team with 26 goals and 50 points. Martin St. Louis is right behind him with 49 points (nine goals, 40 assists).
Despite missing the last four games and only playing a handful of seconds against the Islanders, Crosby still leads Stamkos by six points in the NHL scoring race.
Chris Kunitz leads the Penguins with 20 goals and is tied for fourth in the league with 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists).
In goal, Marc-Andre Fleury (20-6-0, 2.31 GAA, .917 save percentage) is tied with Minnesota’s Niklas Backstrom for the league lead with 20 wins.
Against the Lightning, Fleury is 13-10-3 with a 2.42 GAA and .912 save percentage.
It is likely that Tomas Vokoun (10-4-0, 2.54 GAA, .915 save percentage) will get the nod in one of the remaining two games on this three-game road trip.
Vokoun isis 14-8-3 with a tie and has a 2.69 GAA and .915 save percentage against Tampa Bay in his career.
The pick is set to drop at 7:30 p.m. and you can watch the game on Root Sports.
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