WATCH LIVE: Penguins host Lightning on Wednesday Night Hockey

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Tampa Bay, which last played on Jan. 19, comes out of the All- Star break with the best record in the NHL at 37-10-2. With 76 points, the Lightning occupy first place in the NHL, and are five points ahead of the Calgary Flames for most in the league entering Wednesday night’s action.

Tampa Bay has been in first place in the NHL since Nov. 29 – just more than two months – and are looking to capture the Presidents’ Trophy for the first time in franchise history. They are currently on pace to win 62 games this season, which would tie NHL record (set by the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings – 62 wins).

The last team to win the Presidents’ Trophy and win the Stanley Cup was the Blackhawks in 2013, and before that was the Red Wings in 2008.

[WNH: Sidney Crosby’s Selke Trophy push]

On Monday, the Penguins lost at home to the New Jersey Devils, 6-3, its fourth loss in the last five games (all in regulation – 1-4-0 record since Jan. 12). Pittsburgh has allowed five-plus goals in all four of those losses. This recent stretch of struggles follows Pittsburgh’s hottest streak of the season, when they won 10 of 11 games from Dec. 19 – Jan. 11.

One thing the Penguins need to improve is on the power play. They are just 2-for-13 (15.4%) on the power play in their last four games, and have allowed three shorthanded goals in the last six games. In fact, Pittsburgh leads the NHL with 11 shorthanded goals allowed this season. Last year they were tied with Tampa Bay and San Jose for the fewest shorthanded goals allowed (3).

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 7 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Tampa Bay Lightning at Pittsburgh Penguins
Where: PPG Paints Arena
When: Wednesday, Jan. 30, 7 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Lightning-Penguins stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

LIGHTNING
Ondrej PalatSteven StamkosYanni Gourde
Tyler JohnsonBrayden PointNikita Kucherov
Alex KillornAnthony CirelliJ.T. Miller
Adam ErneCedric PaquetteMathieu Joseph

Victor HedmanDan Girardi
Ryan McDonaghErik Cernak
Mikhail SergachevAnton Stralman

Starting goalie: Andrei Vasilevskiy

PENGUINS
Jake GuentzelSidney CrosbyDominik Simon
Bryan RustEvgeni MalkinPhil Kessel
Tanner PearsonMatt CullenPatric Hornqvist
Riley Sheahan – Teddy Blueger – Garrett Wilson

Brian DumoulinKris Letang
Olli MaattaJuuso Riikola
Marcus PetterssonJack Johnson

Starting goalie: Matt Murray

MORE: Kendall Coyne Schofield to serve as NBC Sports analyst on Wednesday Night Hockey

Coyne will join the broadcast team of John Forslund (play-by-play), U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member Eddie Olczyk (analyst) and Emmy Award-winner Pierre McGuire (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) for the call from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Wednesday night.

WATCH LIVE: Flyers visit Lightning on NBCSN

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Thursday night’s matchup between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers with coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Since firing head coach Dave Hakstol, the Flyers are 3-1-0 under interim coach Scott Gordon. All four games were decided by one goal. Gordon’s Flyers debut behind the bench coincided with the NHL debut of goalie prospect Carter Hart, who has played in three of those four games.

The Flyers enter Thursday right points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for third in the Metropolitan Division. They were exactly eight points back of third place in the division last season after the Christmas Break. They went 27-13-6 the rest of the way and finished third in the division to make the playoffs.

Tampa is the hottest team in the league at 10-0-1 during the month of December. The last team to go a full calendar month without a regulation loss was the Blue Jackets in December of 2016 (14-0-0) en route to recording the 2nd-longest winning streak in NHL history (16 games). Their 58 points through 37 games are their most in franchise history, two points more than they had through 37 games last season when they also set a franchise record.

Captain Steven Stamkos has been red hot with 10 goals in his last seven games. He lit the lamp twice on Saturday to mark his 10th career 20-goal campaign. That ties Martin St. Louis for the 2nd-most in team history and trails only Vincent Lecavalier (12).

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Philadelphia Flyers at Tampa Bay Lightning
Where: Amalie Arena
When: Thursday, Dec. 27, 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Flyers-Lightning stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

FLYERS
James van RiemsdykClaude GirouxTravis Konecny
Wayne SimmondsSean CouturierJakub Voracek
Scott LaughtonNolan PatrickMichael Raffl
Oskar LindblomPhil VaroneDale Weise

Ivan ProvorovTravis Sanheim
Shayne GostisbehereRobert Hagg
Andrew MacDonaldRadko Gudas

Starting goalie: Michal Neuvirth

LIGHTNING
Ondrej Palat – Steven Stamkos – Yanni Gourde
Tyler JohnsonBrayden PointNikita Kucherov
Alex KillornAnthony Cirelli J.T. Miller
Adam ErneCedric PaquetteRyan Callahan

Victor HedmanDan Girardi
Ryan McDonaghAnton Stralman
Braydon CoburnMikhail Sergachev

Starting goalie: Andrei Vasilevskiy

Rick Peckham (play-by-play) and Brian Boucher (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will call Flyers-Lightning from Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla.

A new episode of the critically-acclaimed Road To The NHL Winter Classic™ docuseries, which takes viewers inside the dressing rooms and homes of the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks as they prepare to meet in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1., will debut on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, leading into coverage of Flyers-Lightning on NBCSN. An encore presentation will air at 11 p.m. ET on NBCSN, immediately following coverage of Flyers-Lightning.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Lightning heavy home favorites vs. Flyers on Thursday

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The Tampa Bay Lightning should not need any reminder about avoiding a holiday hangover against a struggling Philadelphia Flyers team.

The Lightning, who are first overall in the league, are -225 favorites on the NHL odds for Thursday night against the +180 underdog Flyers with a 6.5-goal total at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Tampa Bay is 8-2 in its last 10 home games against Philadelphia, but one of the defeats was at about the same point last season, December 29, 2017. However, the divisional trends mesh with the general power imbalance in the Eastern Conference: Tampa Bay is 8-0 in its last eight regular-season home games against Metropolitan Division teams, whereas the Flyers are 2-7 in their last nine away games against Atlantic Division foes.

The Flyers, who are 15-16-4 this season, have underdog value in certain road matchups, given that they are 8-8-2 in away games and have shown a noticeable energy burst after installing Scott Gordon behind the bench as head coach in mid-December. However, Philadelphia is travelling on the day of the game due to NHL policy and is 0-4 in its last four away games as a moneyline underdog of +165 or more.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

Gordon’s line adjustments that have have stars Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux centering the top two lines has paid off, but the Flyers, whose power play (29th) and penalty killing (27th) units are each near the bottom of the NHL rankings, would really need to have everything break right. In goal, Philadelphia may call on 20-year-old rookie goalie Carter Hart, who has a 2.36 goals-against average and .904 save percentage in his first three NHL starts.

The Lightning, who are 28-7-2 this season and 15-4 on home ice, will be playing their first home game in two weeks after finishing the pre-Christmas schedule with a four-game trip through Western Canada where they earned seven of eight available points. A first game back at home often involves a re-adjustment period, but the Lightning are 4-0 at home this season when their previous game was on the road.

Tampa Bay leads the NHL in goals, largely on the margin of their well-balanced firepower; while the Steven Stamkos-centered first line faces opponents’ top lines and defense pairs, units led by Brayden Point, Anthony Cirelli and Cedric Paquette are among the NHL’s very best second, third and fourth lines. Tampa Bay also has the No. 1-ranked power play.

Tampa Bay’s No. 1 goalie, Andrei Vasilevskiy, has a 3-0-1 record, 2.70 goals-against average and .930 save percentage in four starts this month.

The total has gone OVER in four of the Flyers’ last six road games against Atlantic Division teams, according to the OddsShark NHL Database. The total has gone OVER in six of the Lightning’s last eight home games against the Flyers. The total has gone OVER in 11 of the Lightning’s last 13 home games against Metropolitan teams, with one push.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Tempers flare, penalty parade ensues between Lightning, Canucks

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Who knew the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Vancouver Canucks harbored so much hate for one another?

Wherever it came from, the apparent bad blood between the two teams was certainly flowing at a steady pace on Tuesday night in Vancouver.

Things were going well until around the 12-minute mark of the second period. It was then that Antoine Roussel landed a big hit on Lightning star Yanni Gourde.

Gourde, not impressed with being turnbuckled, took exception and the two squared off. He got five for fighting and a 10-minute misconduct. Roussel was assessed two for roughing and five for fighting.

From there, Canucks defenseman was forced out of the game after an apparent head shot from Lightning forward Danick Martel.

Martel was skating back through the neutral zone when he saw that Stecher had the puck near the boards. The hit looked innocuous at first, but replays showed that Martel seemed to extend his shoulder into Stecher’s head.

Stecher left the game and the Canucks said he wouldn’t return.

With tempers already boiling, things got completely out of hand with under a minute left in the period.

Lightning forward Cedric Paquette took a run at Canucks forward Elias Pettersson, a no-no, and all hell broke loose as the two lines on the ice brawled.

Paquette received two for roughing and five for fighting. Canucks d-man Ben Hutton, who can be seen below throwing bombs, also got a fighting major.

In total, 14 penalties were doled out, with those adding up to 48 minutes in the second period alone.

Quite the game, one that Tampa won 5-2 in the end.

UPDATE:


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Lightning end Sabres’ winning streak at 10 games

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The Buffalo Sabres’ outstanding winning streak ended at 10 games, yet in a way, this performance was as convincing as any that this team is taking a quantum leap forever.

Yes, the Tampa Bay Lightning won 5-4 on Thursday, as Steven Stamkos tied it 4-4 on the power play before Cedric Paquette netted the game-winner.

It’s also sobering for the Sabres to realize that, they’re now ranked third in the hyper-competitive Atlantic Division. This narrow regulation loss leaves the Sabres behind the Lightning (37 points in 26 games) and Toronto Maple Leafs (36 points in 26 games but with more wins/ROW), as they have 36 points in 26 games with a 17-7-2 record.

Yet, if the Sabres can take a step back for a moment, this contest was another reminder that they’re making big steps forward.

For one thing, it sure felt like this contest had the nastiness of a rivalry match. Jack Eichel drew the Lightning’s ire after boarding Ryan McDonagh, while there was a mini-fracas after Zach Bogosian was checked a little late. Maybe this didn’t generate a bunch of full-scale line brawls, but this is the closest as you’ll get to a hateful game between the Sabres and Lightning, at least in November.

The Sabres didn’t seem to get discouraged as they absorbed some body blows from the Bolts.

Tampa Bay took a 1-0 lead on a rare Dan Girardi goal close to three minutes into the game, yet the Sabres responded not just with the tying goal but by taking their first lead of the game less than halfway through the first period. Sam Reinhart had a banner night, scoring two of the Sabres’ two goals, and Buffalo’s big names generally came to play.

There were a lot of positives to take from this game, even though the Lightning found a way to win. For one thing, Buffalo allowed quite a golden scoring chances for Tampa Bay, and Nikita Kucherov scolded them by way of this pretty goal on a 3-on-1.

If Thursday’s game stands as a preview for a series during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, hockey fans could be in for a treat. The way the Sabres are playing, the Lightning would be foolish to dismiss their chances in a best-of-seven format.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.