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Lightning face first road test of the season

Andrei Vasilevskiy expected to start for Lightning against old coach

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

The Tampa Bay Lightning kick off their first road trip of the season when they take on the Ottawa Senators tonight at the Canadian Tire Centre.

The Lightning will play six straight and 12 of their next 16 games on the road.

"It's not necessarily a bad thing," Bolts captain Steven Stamkos said. "We played four games at home, and sometimes it's nice to get on the road, especially early in the year. It gets the guys together, play maybe a little more simple brand of hockey on the road, try to get things going. It's going to be a good test, a lot of division opponents, so looking forward to it."

A familiar face will greet the Lightning on the opposite bench as former head coach Guy Boucher took over the top spot in Ottawa during the offseason and has led the Senators to a 3-1-0 record in 2016-17.

"He was a good coach for us, especially as an offensive guy," said Stamkos, who played under Boucher from 2010-13. "He gave us a lot of opportunities to succeed, whether it was playing a lot of minutes or finding different ways to create offense. He was great that way; I think you've seen that with some of the offensive guys on Ottawa having good starts. It'll be a challenge. I don't think there were a lot of guys here when he was here with the turnover we've had since then. I'm happy for him that he got another chance in the NHL."

Video: Bolts open up road trip vs. OttawaDEFENSIVE SCORING DOWN: The Lightning have gotten little in the way of scoring from their defensemen early in the season as the group has combined for just four points (all assists).

Conversely, Ottawa alone has 11 points among its defensive corps, including two goals and five assists from perennial Norris Trophy candidate Erik Karlsson.

The Bolts are tied with Vancouver and New Jersey for least amount of scoring from its defensemen.

"We've got to get more pucks through," said Victor Hedman, who has three of the Bolts' four d-men points. "I think we've had a lot of shots blocked, especially against Colorado. We've just got to make sure we get the puck away a little quicker and move more on the blue line and find those open seams and get pucks to the net and on the regroups, try to move it quicker to our forwards with high pace and try to be on the attack a little more than we have in the first four games."

Anton Stralman, who has yet to record a point this season, said the Lightning as a team need to find ways to get the defensemen more involved offensively.

"I think we can do a better job joining the rush and the forwards also do a better job giving us the puck on the blue line," Stralman said. "That's something we talked about quite a bit, especially the last game. I don't think we generated enough on the back end. That's on the whole team, that's not just us. That's the forwards moving the puck and everybody kind of moving in the offensive zone. But, we obviously have the onus on ourselves to join the rush and be up there and skating a lot."

Video: Stamkos on facing former head coach Guy BoucherJUMBLED LINES: The Lightning came out to morning skate at the Canadian Tire Centre with quite a different look to its lines, which had remained the same through the first four games.

The Bolts used the following combinations at Saturday's skate:

 

                Killorn                   Filppula                                Kucherov

                Palat                      Stamkos               Namestnikov

                Point                     Paquette             Drouin

                Boyle                     Johnson               Brown

 

Don't expect those combinations to remain for tonight's game against the Senators, however.

"That had nothing to do with tonight's game," Stamkos explained.

ODDS AND ENDS: Andrei Vasilevskiy was the first Lightning goaltender off the ice from morning skate and will make his second start of the season in Ottawa.

"Vasy's in because we're getting him a minimum of one game a week, and this is his game," Cooper said….Cooper added he's been really pleased with the goaltending so far this season as a whole. "I actually have never seen a couple guys get so unlucky on some plays," he said. "I look at the goals scored against us, three-quarters of them have touched us last before they've gone in the net."…The Bolts went 3-1-0 against Ottawa last season and are 10-3-3 versus the Senators over the last four seasons…The Lightning's last trip to Ottawa resulted in a 4-1 victory for the Bolts, which capped the first-ever perfect road trip of four games or more in franchise history (4-0-0)…Anton Stralman can reach 150 career assists with one more…The Lightning have allowed just one power-play goal this season, tied for second fewest in the NHL.

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