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Kucherov, Lightning prospects lead the way in weekend tourney

by Missy Zielinski / Tampa Bay Lightning

CORAL SPRINGS, Fl. – The Tampa Bay Lightning entered Sunday night's game as the only team without a loss in the 2013 Prospects Tournament and they'd leave the same way, undefeated.

After a 2-1 win against their intrastate rival Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay left South Florida with a 2-0-1 record for five points and the number one spot in the standings versus the Boston Bruins, Panthers and Nashville Predators rookie teams.

Jonathan Drouin returned to the lineup, after he was given a planned maintenance day Saturday, but was slotted at center on the top line with J.T. Brown and Nikita Kucherov, instead of at the wing

"We thought the first game he didn't touch the puck that much," said Lightning rookie tourney head coach Rob Zettler. "We thought if we moved him to center he might get more action on the puck because that's what we wanted. He's a very talented player with the puck."

Nikita Kucherov finished with a tournament-best seven points (four goals, three assists) in three games

It wasn't only a position move for Drouin, he was also setup with new linemates too, yet Drouin looked poised in his new position.

"I felt good," said Drouin. "Center isn't my main position, but the coaches and I talked before the game and a couple of adjustments were made and I think it went pretty good."

With a tie score since early in the first, the changes took full effect in the second, as fancy stick work from Drouin and Kucherov in front of Panthers netminder Michael Houser led to the eventual game-winning tally from Kucherov.

Drouin picked up the primary assist on what would stand as the game-winning goal.

"Kucherov and I had a lot of chemistry out there," said Drouin. "We made some good plays and today was a good day for our line."

"Drouin and Kucherov were kind of magical out there a few times too," added Zettler. "Some really nice chances and an unbelievable goal."

Zettler, who has mentioned that his competitive spirit has given him an "always win" attitude, can head back to Tampa Bay pleased, saying that despite it being the third contest in as many days, the Bolts rookies looked good from all angles and it was overall their best game to date.


"I thought Tanner Richard played a really strong tournament on both sides of the puck offensively and defensively," he said. "I thought [Henri] Ikonen was really good and battled really hard and we have a tryout guy by the name of [Drew] Olson who impressed me. He kept working really hard and did a lot of the little things really well."


  • Kucherov finished the tournament with seven points (four goals, three assists) and the most points out of any player during the three-game weekend.
  • Four different players from each team dropped the gloves for Tampa Bay and Florida on Sunday afternoon. The Bolts Carl Nielsen, Artem Sergeev, Brett Welychka and Luke Witkowski all received five-minute majors for fighting.
  • There was no update on Lightning goalie Eric Brassard, but he was seen walking around Tampa Bay's locker room.
  • The rookies will have a scheduled day off tomorrow, before heading back to the Tampa Bay Times Forum Tuesday for off-ice training and one last on-ice session Wednesday.
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