Tampa Bay Lightning (+162) at Pittsburgh Penguins (-180, 5 o/u)
The Tampa Bay Lightning (9-2, 4-1 road) may need to consider changing their mascot from the “ThunderBug” to the “InjuryBug.” But, despite losing goalie Ben Bishop in Game 1, the team could leave Pittsburgh with a stranglehold on the series as they try to steal a second win from the Penguins (8-5, 5-2 home) tonight at the CONSOL Energy Center (8:00 PM Eastern).
Tampa opened the series with a resilient 3-1 win on Friday night. Not only did they lose Bishop in the first period, leading scorer Tyler Johnson also went down with a knee injury (though he was able to return later in the game). With defenseman Anton Stralman (leg) and center Steven Stamkos (illness) already out of the lineup, the Lightning can’t afford to lose any more bodies.
But they’ve already stolen home-ice advantage and another W tonight would just be gravy on top, especially if Bishop isn’t in the lineup. He’s currently listed as doubtful with a leg injury.
“He’s getting better with each day, and it’s encouraging,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper told the Associated Press.
If Bishop can’t go then backup Andrei Vasilevskiy will be asked to step up. He allowed one goal on 26 shots after entering in relief on Friday. The 21-year-old has only started 34 games in his career, posting an 18-15 record and a 2.60 goals against average.
“I think the guys in the room, I know myself, we have full confidence in him,” Bishop said to the AP. “He’s a great young goalie. He’s got a future.”
Pittsburgh played a sloppy Game 1 with nine giveaways on the night. They outshot Tampa by 15 but didn’t bring the same intensity as the Lightning, who laid out nine more hits than the Pens.
If Pittsburgh wants to win this series, they need Game 2 to go their way. They have lost the last two games at home against the Lightning, but had won the previous seven at home against Tampa Bay before that.
Even with a healthy Bishop, taking both games in Pittsburgh is a gargantuan task for the Lightning. With his status in doubt, getting another win tonight seems highly unlikely.
Pick: Penguins (-180).
(Photo credit: Michael Miller (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)