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Bolts look to end opening homestand undefeated

Lightning have three come-from-behind wins to start the 2016-17 season

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

Despite going undefeated through the first three games of the season, the Tampa Bay Lightning have yet to score a first-period goal and have been outscored 4-0 by their three opponents so far.

The Lightning will look to get off to a better start when they host the Colorado Avalanche tonight at AMALIE Arena, the final game in the Bolts' four-game home stand to start the season.

"I know we'd like to score at all times during the game, but the big one for us is having more goals than them at the end," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "We've kind of saved it to the end the last few games, so it would be nice to play with the lead for a little while. Our goalies have kept us in when we've needed to, and the boys have rallied. It would be nice to have a little bit better start in the first period."

The Lightning came back from a two-goal deficit in each of their first two games, something they were only able to do three times all of last season, and rallied from a goal down in Tuesday's 4-3 shootout victory over Atlantic Division rival Florida.

"You look at some of the goals that have gone in on us, a lot of these goals, we're the last person to touch the puck before it ends up in our net," Cooper said. "We're a little bit a victim of circumstance in some of these areas, but it's the fact that we're not scoring. We're getting chances, so as long as we keep getting chances, we're okay."

The Bolts can match a franchise record tonight for wins in consecutive games (4) when giving up the opening goal according to the Elias Sports Bureau, a mark set during the 1995-96 season (Nov. 18-25).

Of course, that's one record the Lightning would rather not match. Instead, they'll try to get off to a better start tonight and hold onto that lead throughout.
"I think we're getting better as the game starts, and I think we just have to bring that from the puck drop in the first period," Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison said. "It's not the way we want to start games, but sometimes it's the way it happens, just got to learn from it and go get the first (goal)."

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: The Lightning will close out a four-game home stand tonight when they take on the Avalanche before embarking on a six-game road trip through the Northeast United States and Canada.

In fact, 12 of the Bolts' next 16 games will come away from AMALIE Arena, making it even more important to collect as many points at home as possible.

Video: Kucherov on facing a young Avalanche team"You don't want to lose any games at the beginning of the season," Bolts right wing Nikita Kucherov said. "Every game is important. We obviously want to win the fourth game in front of our fans and head to the road. That will be nice if we get two points."

In recent seasons, the Lightning have made AMALIE Arena one of the more formidable venues for opponents to play in. The Bolts have won 25 or more games at home five of the last six seasons. The only season they didn't win at least 25 was the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.

Two seasons ago, the Bolts set a franchise record for home victories (32).

"(AMALIE Arena) is a fun place for fans to go and watch games," Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop said. "Anybody that comes down and watches the games raves about how nice of a building it is and how good of an atmosphere it is. A bit part is the fans and all the sellouts we've had now. It makes it a lot of fun for us to go out and play in front of them."

TAORMINA, KOEKKOEK SWITCHAROO: On Wednesday, the Lightning assigned defenseman Slater Koekkoek to their AHL affiliate in Syracuse while recalling blueliner Matt Taormina from the Crunch.

Koekkoek has yet to play in 2016-17. Taormina has an assist in two games with the Crunch this season.

Video: Cooper on the upcoming matchup with ColoradoCooper said sending Koekkoek to Syracuse is a good chance to get the young defenseman some games. The Crunch play Friday and Saturday while the Lightning, following tonight's game against Colorado, play just twice in the next five days.
"We can't have the young guy sitting up in the stands, waiting for his chance when he can have an opportunity to play games," Cooper explained. "It should never be taken as a demotion because it's not. It's a free move to be able to get somebody games, and that's what we want because we need guys like Slater to be ready in case they come in. If they can get a couple games, just as we did with (Nikita) Nesterov and (Andrei) Vasilevskiy and a long list of guys who were in this situation in the past to get the games. We're on our way up to the northeast for six games, so everybody's close, Slater's close, get him some games and hopefully see him back with us."

ODDS AND ENDS: The Lightning can start a season 4-0-0 for just the second time in franchise history with a victory tonight (the 2003-04 Stanley Cup team started 6-0-0 before their first blemish)…Jonathan Drouin has recorded a point in every game so far this season and can match a career high for consecutive games scoring (4) with a point versus the Avalanche…Victor Hedman had an assist on Tuesday and needs four more to tie Dan Boyle (187 career assists)for seventh most in Lightning franchise history. Hedman currently has 183 career assists…Ben Bishop was the first goaltender off the ice from today's optional morning skate and will likely make his third start of the season tonight.

 

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