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Cooper feels team is headed in the right direction

by Missy Zielinski / Tampa Bay Lightning

Friday provided a chance for the Tampa Bay Lightning to turn the page on what has been a mix of a tough road trip and change to focus on the last leg of its 2013-14 schedule.

Though the Lightning lost its first contest with the additions of Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan it was the beginning of a new era in which the Bolts start by finding a chemistry that works for the team.

Each line saw at least one tweak from Tampa Bay's last game in St. Louis on Tuesday.

"I think it was a little evident that we were out of sync," head coach Jon Cooper said.

With 19 games left though, the Lightning are no longer in a place where they can just focus on the positives, they must win to make the playoffs.

"It's in everyone's head," Ondrej Palat said. "We want to battle and be in the playoffs."

A trip to the postseason means the Bolts must start to play desperate with just four points between being in or out of the post-season.

"You have to play like the goalies pulled every time and there is that little bit of desperation when you're trying to get that extra goal," Cooper said. "Last night I thought we did that, we just didn't generate enough scrambles, rebounds or anything that would give us a chance to score."

That brought focus on the Bolts' power play and getting players set up in front of the opposition's net during practice on Friday.

"We didn't go hard to the net and screen the other team's goalie," Palat said. "We didn't do that last game and it was really easy for [Jhonas] Enroth to see the puck."

Callahan was the lone Bolt that truly succeeded in that category.

"Talk about one guy that was actually around the net all the time, that was him," Cooper said. "When Callahan was on the ice the goalie was not seeing pucks."

In fact the team's biggest struggles in the 3-1 loss seemed to be structurally and their transisiton game, all things that should be easy to clean up.

Work ethic was not ever put into question, as the Bolts knew ahead of time they would have to work harder without Martin St. Louis a part of their game.

"If we play with that effort and tenacity that we did yesterday, we'll start getting back in that win column," Cooper said.

Callahan will also be inserted into the game more Saturday as he was "eased in" to the Bolts' lineup Thursday. He is also expected to play on the power play.


Since being claimed off waivers by the Lightning on February 23, Mike Kostka has already been on the score sheet twice.

In just his second game he recorded a career-high two assists and followed that performance up with a team-high seven shots on goal Thursday versus Buffalo and skated a season-high 18:57 of total ice time.

"I'm trying to build on every game that I play," Kostka said. "That comfort level with the guys you already know really goes a long way when you're trying to just find the confidence to play your game."

Having eight-or-so close friends on the team also made the transition easier for Kostka, who said being picked up by a team he is familiar with might give him the extra edge he needs to succeed in the NHL.

  • Steven Stamkos reported no soreness in his surgically repaired leg after Thursday's game. It was his first contest since November 11 (45 games).
  • Radko Gudas (lower body) skated for the first time since last Sunday in a red, no contact jersey during Friday's practice. Cooper reported Gudas was feeling pain and would not be ready for Saturday's contest versus the Boston Bruins. Gudas is making progress however and Cooper is confident he will return to the lineup sometime next week.
  • Victor Hedman and Valtteri Filppula left practice early, but both players are said to have been okay after the skate.

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