Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Patchwork Lightning team faces must-win game Tuesday vs. Arizona

RECOMMENDED READING


TAMPA — A glance around the Lightning dressing room after Monday's practice showed five players who opened the season at AHL Syracuse, a backup goalie who won 27 games this season with the Kings and a fourth-line center who began the year with high expectations for the Panthers.

Yep. Just how they drew it up when the Lightning opened the season Oct. 13 against Detroit with its sights set on hoisting the Stanley Cup.

"It's a weird year," center Greg McKegg said.

McKegg, who started the season with the Panthers, was claimed off waivers Feb. 27. He left one team scrambling for its playoff life for another. Nothing has really changed, he said, "just the uniform."

Backup goalie Peter Budaj came from the Kings in the Ben Bishop trade. He split his first two starts for the Lightning, earning two big points for his team with a victory against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

Meanwhile, the Syracuse Shuttle has left Gabriel Dumont, Adam Erne, Yanni Gourde, Jake Dotchin and Luke Witkowski in the dressing room. Joel Vermin, sent back to the Crunch on Sunday, was recalled Monday for tonight's game. Byron Froese, acquired from the Maple Leafs in the Brian Boyle trade, played two games before being sent back to Syracuse.

"It's kind of been crazy," Dumont said. "Even at the beginning of the year I was hurt and guys were getting called up and called up and called up and then I get here and people just kept coming."

Re-signing Steven Stamkos and keeping Bishop for another season before he turned free agent was the blueprint for what was projected to be a long and successful playoff run.

We know what went wrong. Injuries, poor play then the trades and now the Lightning find themselves on the outside of a playoff spot facing the visiting Coyotes tonight in a must-win game.

But you can't blame the new faces, many of them rookies. In fact, you can credit them for keeping the team afloat.

"They're doing all they can to help us win," coach Jon Cooper said.

"They've done a great job so far," added J.T. Brown. "Everybody who has come up as stepped in and played well."

Gourde's first NHL goal — and only NHL goal so far — tied the score at 2-2 on March 11 against the Panthers and helped the Lightning rally from a 2-0 deficit for a 3-2 win.

Dumont had a key goal in the win at New York. Witkowski, a defenseman, was a healthy scratch in nine consecutive games and now finds himself playing on the wing.

"They ask me to play forward, I'm not going to say no," Witkowski said. "I was sitting out for nine games in a row. I'm going to do whatever I need to do. We all are."

Witkowski began the year as captain of the Crunch. Dotchin filmed a promo video for the Crunch, lip-synching to Beyonce. Now he's a top-pairing defenseman with Victor Hedman.

"Having guys step up and ready to play in the NHL, it's not an easy league to play in, but these guys have done a really good job getting acclimated to us and acclimated to the way we play," Hedman said.

NOTEWORTHY: Center Vladislav Namestnikov (lower body) participated Monday in practice and said he expects to play tonight. Center Cedric Paquette (lower body) skated Monday for the first time since suffering his injury March 9 but wore a red no-contact jersey. Center Tyler Johnson (lower body) did not practice.

Comments
Nikita Kucherov really does admire Patrick Kane

Nikita Kucherov really does admire Patrick Kane

TAMPA — Lightning wing Nikita Kucherov has watched plenty of film on Blackhawks star Patrick Kane.Kucherov marveled how the 2015-16 league MVP uses deception to "hide" from defenders. He noticed how patient Kane was with the puck, how well he passed ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning beats Blackhawks in OT

Lightning beats Blackhawks in OT

TAMPA — The Lightning entered Wednesday’s game against the Blackhawks determined to avoid its first losing streak of the season. And it did in dramatic fashion, with Brayden Point’s power-play goal in overtime lifting it to a 3-2 victory. "A big boun...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Joe Smith’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Lightning-Blackhawks game

Every Lightning-Blackhawks game at Amalie Arena has a good representation of red in the stands. And Wednesday’s matchup was no exception, with a large contingent of transplants and travelers. "It feels like half the city of Chicago is traveling down ...
Updated: 2 hours ago

‘Good chance’ Cedric Paquette back for Lightning

For Cedric Paquette, the wait may finally be over.Paquette said there's a good chance he returns to the Lightning lineup tonight against the Blackhawks at Amalie Arena (7:30 p.m., NBCSN). Paquette had missed the last 13 games with an undisclosed inju...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Lightning-Blackhawks: Tampa Bay is killing it on penalty-killers

Lightning-Blackhawks: Tampa Bay is killing it on penalty-killers

BRANDON — A successful penalty kill begins long before the offending Lightning player, whistled two minutes earlier for some infraction, leaves the box with the score unchanged.It begins with a detailed scouting report of the opposing team’s power pl...
Published: 11/21/17
Lightning impressed with improved offense from defensemen

Lightning impressed with improved offense from defensemen

BRANDON — At one point during Saturday’s game against the Islanders, the Lightning was first in the NHL in points and second in points scored by its defensemen. That’s one reason the team is off to the best start in franchise history.It’s also by des...
Published: 11/20/17
Lightning’s rare loss produces reality check

Lightning’s rare loss produces reality check

TAMPA — Jon Cooper stood at the podium late Saturday night to address the media after a regulation loss for only the third time this season."Let’s be honest," he said, "we’ve had one hell of a start."The loss, he added, was frustrating, even when you...
Published: 11/19/17
Lightning finds its game too late, loses to Islanders

Lightning finds its game too late, loses to Islanders

TAMPA — The firepower showed up in the third period.Yanni Gourde and Ondrej Palat scored 13 seconds apart. Gourde scored again.Suddenly it was a one-goal game, and the Lightning appeared on its way to one of those comeback wins that would be remember...
Published: 11/18/17
Lightning journal: Jon Cooper thrilled with stellar start

Lightning journal: Jon Cooper thrilled with stellar start

TAMPA — If you told coach Jon Cooper his team would open the season with wins in 15 of the first 19 games, well, "I’m not sure I can sit here and say I would have predicted that," he said Saturday morning.But the Lightning did just that to lead the N...
Published: 11/18/17
Roger Mooney’s takeaways from Lightning-Islanders

Roger Mooney’s takeaways from Lightning-Islanders

This is what happens when you have the best record in the league: You get the best from the other team. The Islanders came out strong and the Lightning couldn’t match it, falling behind 4-0 early in the third. For the most part, the Lightning has bee...
Published: 11/18/17