Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Lightning's Season Has Familiar Ring

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Lightning's Season Has Familiar Ring

Article excerpt

TAMPA, Fla. - When this team reported to training camp, some figured its biggest concern would be working out the details of a Stanley Cup parade route.

Its lineup was laced with stellar offensive talents, its defense corps was anchored by a guy who seemed ready to contend for a Norris Trophy, and its go-to goaltender was fully capable of winning games with little assistance from his teammates.

Sound familiar?

It should.

But this is not about the Penguins.

Instead, it describes Tampa Bay, the team they will face at 7:38 p.m. Friday at Amalie Arena.

The Lightning reached the Stanley Cup final last season and was a popular choice last fall to win the championship this spring.

At least until the season began.

Tampa Bay, like the Penguins, has sputtered through most of 2015- 16. Both had - and still have - great expectations for what can be achieved, but both are in the cluster of teams trying to claw their way to a spot at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff field.

"Both the Penguins and the Lightning have very good teams and are not satisfied with where they are in the standings right now," Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy said.

Although few predicted either club would be in mortal peril of failing to qualify for the playoffs, Penguins players say that reality reflects the parity in the NHL today.

"It's not an easy league," right winger Phil Kessel said.

"You look around, a lot of good teams are in that kind of pack right now.

"It's hard to win. Everyone is pretty close, and, each night, it's a tough game."

Tampa Bay has won three games in a row, matching its best run of the season, and has avoided any skid worse than 0-3-1. Nonetheless, the Lightning is stuck in the middle of the pack, not setting the pace.

"I just know that going into this season, they were one of the Cup favorites and right now, like a lot of teams, they're battling for points," forward Eric Fehr said. …

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