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Lightning look to avenge loss to Coyotes

Tampa Bay suffered one of its worst losses of the year in Arizona earlier this season

by Bryan Burns /

The Tampa Bay Lightning will have revenge on their mind when they host the Arizona Coyotes at AMALIE Arena tonight (7:30 p.m. puck drop).

The Coyotes blasted the Bolts 5-3 in their previous meeting this season in Arizona on January 21, the Coyotes storming out to a 5-1 lead before holding the Bolts off in the final period.

Tampa Bay's effort was sub-par and the result was one of its poorest performances of the season according to associate head coach Rick Bowness

"Probably one of the worst games of the year we played was in Arizona. It really was," Bowness said. "Those first two periods were atrocious. We have to redeem ourselves."

Arizona scored two goals in a span of 2:14 in the first period to grab a 2-0 lead. Cedric Paquette got the Bolts on the board right before the first intermission, but the Coyotes responded with three more goals in the second for a 5-1 lead after two periods.

Vladislav Namestnikov and Ondrej Palat scored in the final period for the Lightning, who had a season-high 48 shots on goal in a losing effort.

"We just didn't have a great effort the last time we played them," said rookie center Brayden Point, who was recovering from an upper-body injury and didn't play in that late January tilt. "If we come to compete and work hard, then hopefully we'll be alright."

NAMESTNIKOV RETURNS: Vladislav Namestnikov looks to make his return to the lineup tonight after sitting out four of the last five contests with a lower-body injury.

Initially, Namestnikov missed just one game after going down in the second period of Tampa Bay's home victory over Minnesota on March 9. But in his return four days later, Namestnikov re-aggravated the injury and had to sit for three more games.

Namestnikov skated for the second-straight day Tuesday in a regular jersey. He centered the Lightning's second line with Alex Killorn and Jonathan Drouin on the wings during Bolts' morning skate.

"We lost all the centermen it seemed in a couple days, so having Vladdy back who can play center is certainly a help to us," said Bowness, referring to the Lightning losing Namestnikov, Tyler Johnson and Cedric Paquette in the same game against the Wild. "He's played enough in this league that he should be able to step in there and give us a boost down the middle. He's an offensive guy, so it helps Drouin and Killer and hopefully they can generate some offense. Again, it's a veteran guy who's been around a little bit anyway, knows the league and knows what we're up against. We just expect him to come in and play his game."

Paquette also participated in morning skate but wore a red no-contact jersey for the second day in a row.

"It's early for him, and it's encouraging to see him on the ice," Bowness said. "Certainly no timetable so nothing has changed in that regard. But it's just nice to see him on the ice."

Johnson, once again, was absent from the Bolts' skate.

HELPFUL REST: The Lightning enjoyed two days without a game Sunday and Monday after finishing a stretch of five games in eight days on Saturday.

The Bolts wouldn't use fatigue as an excuse for their play in their last two games, losses to Toronto and Washington in which they gave up five goals in each, but certainly the grind of so many games piled up on one another wore out the Bolts toward the end of that difficult stretch.

"It's nice having a day off and getting to work on some stuff in practice," Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin said of the break from the schedule. "I thought we got better yesterday as a group at practice, and hopefully it shows in tonight's game."

The Lightning had been the league's top defensive team of late. Coming into last week's Toronto game, the Bolts owned a 1.82 goals-against average since February 3, the best in the NHL.

But after giving up five goals each in back-to-back losses to the Maple Leafs and Capitals, Bowness said the Bolts need to get back to basics when they lace up the skates to take on the Coyotes tonight.

"We're not going to win any games giving up five goals a game like we did against Toronto and Washington and, yes, I know one of them was an empty-netter," Bowness said. "But, more importantly, Arizona, it's us, focus on us and play good team D and the rest will take care of itself. So our meeting this morning was just focused on that: playing better team defense as a five-man unit with your goaltender, not just rely on the defense, not just rely on forwards, it's got to be a five-man unit, and keeping that puck out of our net, keeping that puck out of our zone and spending a lot less time in our zone. The rest of the game will take care of itself."

The Lightning are looking to avoid their first three-game losing skid since dropping four in a row to start 2017.

"We've got to go out there and play our game, play hard for 60 minutes and see what happens," Bowness said.

ICE CHIPS: Andrei Vasilevskiy was the first Lightning goaltender off the ice from morning skate and is in line to make his fourth-consecutive start. Vasilevskiy is looking to end a two-game losing skid…Joel Vermin was recalled from AHL Syracuse Monday evening and was on the ice Tuesday for the Bolts morning skate. The 25-year-old forward skated on a line with Adam Erne and Yanni Gourde…Steven Stamkos continues to progress in his rehabilitation and took a line rush for the first time, skating with Greg McKegg and Cedric Paquette on a line that would appear to be the scratches for tonight's game.

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