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NHL on NBCSN: East’s elite meet as Penguins host Lightning

Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos

Pittsburgh Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin (71) falls to the ice, losing control of the puck, under pressure from Tampa Bay Lightning’s Steven Stamkos (91) in the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 22, 2014, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)


NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Consol Energy Center at 7:00 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

Even with Sidney Crosby swollen and sidelined, hockey fans should be in for a treat when the Tampa Bay Lightning visit the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday.

Plenty of star power, plenty of players fans should get to know better

Including Crosby, there are 13 players in the NHL with at least 30 points, and four of them play for these two teams: Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson.

Some casual fans probably look at the Lightning as Stamkos, maybe Victor Hedman and quite a few anonymous players, but the truth is that Tampa Bay is one of the deepest team in the East (if not the NHL).

Johnson quietly has 30 points in 31 contests as he has enjoyed great chemistry on a fantastic line with Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat. The Lightning might have to go without Palat today, however, so both teams will be missing a noteworthy forward.

In other words, there should be no shortage of star wattage tonight, even with key injuries in mind.

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $15,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Monday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first prize is $1,400. Starts Monday at 7pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

Cream of the conference crop

Each team currently stands on top of its respective division; the Penguins are 19-6-4 for 42 standings points while the Bolts are 19-9-3 for 41.

The Lightning have been stumbling a bit lately, as they’ve dropped four of six games, including a 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals on Saturday. This represents thes second contest of a five-game road trip.

The Penguins have been trading wins and losses lately, most recently dropping a 4-3 shootout decision in a thriller against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

There’s a solid chance we’ll see a showdown between Marc-Andre Fleury and Ben Bishop, two clear No. 1 goalies who have enjoyed strong starts to their 2014-15 campaigns. Whatever the case may be, the men in net are likely to be tested often tonight.

Last season, the Penguins went 3-0-0 against the Lightning. Will Tampa Bay make something of a statement by beating one of the East’s best? We’ll see on NBCSN.

Follow James O’Brien @cyclelikesedins