The Tampa Bay Lightning have scored just one goal over their last two games.
The fact they've earned three of a possible four points from those contests has helped to mask their scoring deficiencies of late.
But make no mistake: The Bolts understand they need to put more pucks in the back of the net if they want to continue to climb the ladder of the Eastern Conference standings.
To that end, the Lightning shifted their lines somewhat during Thursday's morning skate in preparation for hosting the Western Conference-leading Minnesota Wild at AMALIE Arena. Recently-recalled forward Yanni Gourde slid into Jonathan Drouin's spot on a line with Alex Killorn and Brayden Point. Drouin skated on the right wing with Adam Erne and Vladislav Namestnikov.
The move helps distribute scoring depth a little more evenly throughout the four lines.
"We've been getting chances, they're just not going in," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "I don't know, we're trying to move some things around. We've just got to get some guys going here offensively. What we start with tonight may not be what we finish with."
The Lightning put up 38 shots against New York's Antti Raanta and had 32 two nights earlier in Buffalo facing Robin Lehner. Both goalies had above-average performances against the Bolts, partially accounting for the scoring struggles. Players say they don't need to do too much differently to start generating more offense again. It's just a matter of sticking to the system.
"I think we've had the opportunities," Lightning center Tyler Johnson said. "We've had the chances, for whatever reason, they're not going in. We're missing the net, that kind of thing. But, we've got to keep doing what we're doing and when we get these opportunities, just bear down a little bit harder and really make sure we put them in."
Hedman reasoned that the Lightning can't start sacrificing defense to create more offense because it's solid defending that has gotten the Bolts back into the playoff chase.
"Don't look for the extra pass, just keeping shooting and pucks are going to go in," Hedman said. "At the same time, we haven't given up a whole lot, and that's what we're going to keep doing."
Video: Cooper on matchup with MIN
VASILEVSKIY THRIVING: Since taking over as Tampa Bay's unquestioned starting goaltender following the trade of Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings, Andrei Vasilevskiy has settled into his new role with ease and is playing, arguably, the best he's played all season.
Since that trade, Vasilevskiy has started four of the Bolts next five games, his only missed game coming in Pittsburgh on the first half of a back-to-back set. Over that period, he's gone 3-0-1 and ranks fourth in the NHL for save percentage (.956) and fifth for goals-against average (1.44).
"We've talked about this before, the goaltender, he needs to make the saves he should," Cooper said. "But he's making all those, and then he's making extras. That's the big thing for us. I think we're defending better as a team in front of him. We've had the puck a lot more, which means you're not playing defense, but I think the big thing is he's given us a chance to win every night."
Vasilevskiy has had to battle to come up with victories too. Five of his last seven starts, including his last three in a row, have gone to overtime/a shootout.
Video: Johnson on winning draws vs. MIN
STAMKOS UPDATE: Steven Stamkos continues to join the Lightning for morning skates wearing a regular jersey, but Cooper didn't have any update on when the Bolts captain might return to the ice.
Stamkos was scheduled to miss four to six months from when he was injured November 15. Four months would be March 15, which is less than a week away.
"Every report we're getting on him has been positive," Cooper said. "There haven't been setbacks. He was given quite a window of the four to six months. We're in that window. It's still probably early in that window, but he's progressing well. But there's no timeframe."
While he may not be ready to make an impact on the ice, just having Stamkos around is a big bonus for the team according to Cooper.
"The fact he's out here, he's around our team more," Cooper said. "He's been coming on the road with us. He's at some of these lighter skates. It's just really good to have him around."
Video: Hedman on keys to outplaying MIN
ICE CHIPS: Tyler Johnson set a new franchise high for face-off wins (22) in the Lightning's loss Monday to the Rangers. Johnson won 22-of-26 face-offs in a record-setting performance on the dot. "A lot of times, pucks are just laying there, so the first one in there that competes the hardest gets it," Johnson said. "Kuch and Pally did a great job for me."…Victor Hedman can tie Fredrik Modin for seventh place on the Lightning's all-time scoring list with two more points…Tampa Bay owns a 4-5-2 record against Central Division opponents this season but has recorded at least a point in five-straight games versus the Central, going 3-0-2 over that span.