Vasy in net, Kunitz facing old team tonight vs. Penguins
G Andrei Vasilevskiy will be in goal tonight when the Lightning (2-1-0) play the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins (2-1-1) at Amalie Arena.
It is the fourth straight start to open the season for the Lightning's top goalie.
It will also be a reunion for Lightning LW Chris Kunitz, who signed with the Lightning over the summer after nine years with the Penguins, where he was a member of three Cup-winning teams.
“I don’t really know what to expect other than outside of going out there and playing the game,” Kunitz said after the morning skate. “The longer you play the more friends you have out there that kind of go to different teams, and this time you’re the one who’s leaving.”
Kunitz said he looked to see when his new team would play his old when he signed with the Lightning.
“I’m sure he circled the game,” C Steven Stamkos said.
Said coach Jon Cooper, “Those are always just emotional games for him for sure. You just cheer for him and kind of hope he scores, actually. He’s been such a valuable teammate already to us. I know just in the short time he’s been here what he probably meant to Pittsburgh in all the years he was there. He’s somebody you want on your team. I’m pretty sure over there they got a lot of respect for him, but I know Chris Kunitz is not going to change the way he plays. He’s got the Bolts colors on now and he’s going to do everything to help us win. I’m just glad he’s on our team and not there’s.”
Kunitz scored his first goal of the season Monday in a win against the Capitals.
C Cedric Paquette skated this morning but will not play tonight because of an undisclosed injury.
“He got banged up the other night, we thought a little rest would help, and it’s helping,” Cooper said. “I don’t see this as a long-term thing. It may be just tonight.”
The Penguins are playing the second half a back-to-back road games, having beat the Capitals, 3-2, on Wednesday night in Washington, D.C.
Cooper was asked if his team has an advantage because they haven’t played since Monday when they beat the Caps 4-3 and the Penguins flew to Tampa after playing Wednesday night, arriving early this morning.
“I don’t think there’s any advantage or disadvantage of back-to-backs, to be honest,” Cooper said. “You can make arguments either way. A team has a good game, like Pittsburgh did last night, they can carry the momentum into tonight. Ultimately, we have to worry about ourselves and how we are going to start the game.”