The Pittsburgh Penguins don’t have much time to shake out of their road funk before defending their Stanley Cup title in the playoffs. Playing five of the next six away from home gives them a good chance to accomplish that.
Pittsburgh will try to avoid losing the first three of this five-game road trip Sunday when they face the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Penguins (40-23-5) have dropped four of five on the road after losing 3-1 to New Jersey on Friday, a night after opening this trip with a 4-3 overtime defeat at Carolina.
Pittsburgh is trying to hold off the Devils in the Atlantic Division, but has lost all five season meetings. They’ll conclude the season series Wednesday before completing this trip at Boston the following night.
The Penguins are in the middle of an eight-game stretch with seven on the road before playing six of their final eight regular-season games at home.
Sidney Crosby(notes), the NHL leader with 45 goals and third with 86 points, is certainly doing his part, accumulating three goals and six assists during a seven-game road scoring streak after netting Pittsburgh’s lone goal Friday. The superstar center has also put together an eight-game overall run, during which he’s totaled six goals and six assists.
Crosby, though, hasn’t been very effective in eight visits to St. Pete Times Forum with three goals and two assists, while failing to get on the scoresheet in a 3-1 loss Jan. 2.
Marc Andre-Fleury, who had 29 saves Friday, will likely be in net looking to end his own struggles on the road. He’s 0-2-1 with a 4.77 goals-against average in his last four road starts, getting pulled twice.
Fleury made 34 saves in the last matchup with Tampa Bay.
The Lightning, 18-8-6 at home, are battling Boston, the Rangers and Atlanta for the final playoff position in the Eastern Conference.
They’re entering a difficult four-game homestand that will go a long way toward determining if they’ll reach the playoffs for the first time since 2006-07. This stretch includes meetings with NHL-leading Washington, Northeast-leading Buffalo and Phoenix.
Tampa Bay (28-27-12) hopes to continue its momentum after a 3-2 win over the Capitals on Friday, Washington’s first home regulation loss since December.
Steven Stamkos(notes) saw his franchise-record 18-game point streak end against Washington, but he’s in position to extend his home streak to 11. The center, among the league leaders with 42 goals and 80 points, has 11 goals and nine assists in the last 10 home games.
“He’s got a gift that not many players have,” defenseman Kurtis Foster(notes) told the team’s official Web site. “When you give him a pass, he usually puts it in the back of the net, and that makes being around him that much better.”
Stamkos, who has 17 goals and 16 assists in the last 19 games, has one goal and three assists in his last three games against Pittsburgh.