Penguins at Lightning
Brayden Point has picked up right where he left off in his rookie season and hopes to continue the offensive surge when the Tampa Bay Lightning host the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday. The 21-year-old center surprised many by making the Lightning roster out of training camp last season and finished the campaign with five goals in his final five games before starting 2017-18 with seven points in three contests.
“He’s got that blend of the hockey sense and the drive, and he works and works,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper told reporters of Point, who has scored eight goals in his last eight NHL games. "And usually, those guys succeed.” Point scored the winning goal in overtime on a deflection as the Lightning rallied to beat Washington 4-3 on Monday after a rough start to the season during which they were outshot 84-55 despite splitting two meetings with Florida. Pittsburgh also has rebounded from an embarrassing 10-1 loss at Chicago with solid victories over Stanley Cup contenders Nashville and Washington, allowing a total of two goals in the wins. Captain Sidney Crosby leads the team with six points in the first four games and Patric Hornqvist recorded a goal and an assist while making his season debut in Wednesday's 3-2 win over the Capitals after recovering from offseason hand surgery.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, Sportsnet 360, TVA, AT&T SportsNet-Pittsburgh, FSN Sun (Tampa Bay)
ABOUT THE PENGUINS (2-1-1): Pittsburgh scored two power-play goals over its first three games but went 3-for-6 with the man advantage on Wednesday as defenseman Kris Letang converted in the first period to get things going. Bryan Rust has yet to register a goal but has collected five assists to rank second on the team in points, and Conor Sheary netted his second tally on Wednesday to tie blue-liner Olli Maatta for the club lead. Hornqvist played on a line with Sheary and center Greg McKegg to start his season while defenseman Chad Ruhwedel made his season debut in place of Ian Cole, who was placed on injured reserve after taking a puck in the mouth.
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (2-1-0): Captain Steven Stamkos has yet to record a goal but has contributed five assists while linemates Vladislav Namestnikov (two) and Nikita Kucherov (three) have combined for five tallies. Cooper praised the newly constructed line of Chris Kunitz, Cedric Paquette and Ryan Callahan, which was a constant thorn in Washington’s side on Monday as Tampa Bay had a 40-26 advantage in shots. Defenseman Anton Stralman, who mainly has played with rookie Mikhail Sergachev, is off to a strong start with a plus-6 rating in three games while fellow blue-liner Victor Hedman leads the team with 14 shots.
1. Letang is one shy of 300 career assists and Pittsburgh RW Phil Kessel, who has scored once this season, needs three goals to reach 300.
2. Hedman is expected to move ahead of Brad Richards (552) for fifth place on the franchise’s all-time games played list on Thursday.
3. Pittsburgh swept last season's three-game series, outscoring Tampa Bay 15-7, and has won five straight overall meetings - including the 2016 playoffs.