Pittsburgh Penguins: Injury Updates Before Game Two


Game two of the Eastern Conference Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning is tonight. Injury updates and lineup questions are big news leading up to puck drop.

Tonight will be the second game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning. The latter team claimed victory in game one, shutting down the Penguins to win 3-1. In the few days since, we’ve gotten some injury updates and seen a few potential lineup changes.

Olli Maatta appears to be a healthy scratch tonight, which is probably a good thing. His skating has been subpar, as has his general decision-making on the ice. Justin Schultz, who got some looks on the second powerplay unit in practice, will be the probable replacement.

Brian Dumoulin and Kris Letang, both of whom were injured in that first game, have been practicing with the team and should be good to go this evening. Letang was, of course, hit from behind into the boards by Ryan Callahan while Dumoulin was boarded by Ondrej Palat.

(Officially, the defensemen will be game-time decisions tonight, but based on morning skate this is what you should expect to see.)

Both Callahan and Palat received penalties during the game but no supplemental discipline. That’s definitely a frustrating decision by the Department of Player Safety, especially because it opens the door to more bad hits throughout the rest of the series. Dirty hits like those are apparently what the DoPS wants to eliminate from the game, but they don’t seem to be doing a very good job at it.

Because neither Callahan nor Palat received suspensions, the Tampa lineup will probably be mostly the same. Tyler Johnson, who was on the receiving end of a knee-on-knee hit from Chris Kunitz in game one, returned during the game and will surely remain in the lineup. The diminutive forward is a big part of the Tampa offense, and even if he’s still a little sore he’ll try to make a big impact. 

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Meanwhile, Ben Bishop is unlikely to play tonight. Though he’s been declared day-to-day following his scary exit from game one, and has said that he’s improving, there’s no sense for the Bolts to rush him. Andrei Vasilevskiy has shown that he can shut down the Pens effectively (unfortunately) and should be in net tonight.

At the other end of the ice, things are status quo – Matt Murray will get the start again tonight.

Both of these teams are fast, and the Bolts are one of the few teams in the league that can match the Penguins in that regard. Since speed is such a major part of the Pittsburgh game plan, they’ll need to adapt in order to throw the Lightning for a loop.

Additionally, the Pens may need to settle back down to basics tonight, or at least to begin the game until they get their skates under them. Clean passes, smart plays, and even a little selfishness are important factors. Tampa is really good at getting in the way of passes and breaking plays up if their opponent tries to get too fancy, which the Penguins saw a lot of in game one.

Efficiency, therefore, is the way around that. Don’t make unnecessary passes and just don’t get too flashy. Undoubtedly, there will be a Lightning player waiting to capitalize on anything they can snatch up.

One player who’s very good at doing that is Anton Stralman. He’s missed seven weeks with a fractured fibula, but it’s possible that he could return tonight.

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Only time will tell how the back ends of each team will shape up for tonight’s game, but there’s certainly no shortage of possibilities. “The best offense is a strong defense” is one of the most exhausted sports cliches out there, but it’s true. Good work and smart moves by the defensemen can set up goals 150 feet down the ice.

The puck drops at 8 tonight as the Penguins look to draw even.