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Lightning learns schedule, but will be underdogs vs. Pittsburgh

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The Tampa Bay Lightning have their times and dates.

Now, they just need their results against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Lightning open in Pittsburgh Friday and Monday with both games at 8 p.m. The Bolts came home on Wednesday and Friday. Game Five would be on Sunday. The Lightning would be the host of Game Six on Sunday, May 22. Game Seven would be Tuesday, May 24.

Every game starts at 8 p.m.

The Bolts beat Pittsburgh in all three games the teams played this year. But the Penguins finished higher in the standings and hold a home-ice advantage.

The matchups.

Defense: If the Lightning can get Anton Stralman back, and he doesn’t have any rust, this should be an advantage for Tampa Bay. But Pittsburgh isn’t bad. The Penguins allowed only two fewer goals than the Lightning all season.

Edge: Lightning.

Offense: Not many teams can match the firepower the Penguins have with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Pittsburgh is the top team in the playoffs. The Penguins scored 245 goals this season, third in the league in scoring.

Edge: Pittsburgh.

Goaltender: The Lightning have to hope Ben Bishop can slow down the Penguins’ offense. Bishop won 35 games in the regular season and eight more in the playoffs. The Penguins have turned things over to  Matt Murray (seven playoff wins), who has starred.

Edge: Lightning.

Special teams: Pittsburgh has an excellent power play in the playoffs. Tampa Bay has the best penalty kill.

Edge: Even.

Coaching: Jon Cooper’s team was second in the league last year, and will be at least tied for third this season. That gives him an edge over Mike Johnston.

Edge: Tampa Bay.

The problem with a matchup box, however, is that all edges are not created equal. Pittsburgh’s edge on offense is more distinct than Tampa Bay’s on defense. The Penguins are deeper, more talented.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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