To avoid their first three-game losing streak since late October, the Lightning will have to tighten up defensively. The Bolts gave up nine goals combined in the two losses, tied for the most goals they’ve given up in back-to-back games all season.
“We gave up an empty-netter in Ottawa, but if you give up four goals, you’re putting yourself in a hole and can’t expect to win too many games,” Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. “…We’re playing a desperate team as well, so we’ve just got to focus on playing well defensively. We know we have the skill and the talent to score goals, so everything starts in our own end. We’ve got to clean up some stuff.”
The Lightning will be shorthanded in their effort to improve defensively, however. Jason Garrison will miss three to five weeks after sustaining a lower-body injury in the Ottawa loss. Garrison missed the Montreal game and will be out for the foreseeable future. Slater Koekkoek was recalled from the Bolts’ AHL affiliate in Syracuse on Thursday to help fill in for Garrison’s absence.
“(Garrison’s) been an anchor for us back there,” Hedman said. “He’s been playing some real good hockey all year. It’s obviously a tough blow for us.”
Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said some of the Bolts’ established veterans among the defensive corps will see more ice time while Garrison heals.
“You’re not going to make up for Garrison, but everybody’s going to have to pick up some minutes,” Cooper said. “And if it’s going to be (Anton) Stralman and Hedman that have to do it, so be it.
KOEKKOEK ARRIVES (BARELY)
Slater Koekkoek had quite the travel day to make it from St. John’s in Newfoundland, where the Crunch had a game Wednesday night, to Tampa yesterday. Koekkoek had to make four flights, going from St. John’s to Halifax to Ottawa to Washington before finally arriving in Tampa around 8:30 p.m. on Thursday.
He started his travel day in St. John’s at 7 in the morning.
“It was a heck of a day, but if it means coming up, I’d do it whenever,” he said.
Koekkoek was recalled once previously this season and skated in the Lightning’s 2-1 victory over Buffalo on October 17. Koekkoek has four games total of NHL experience, having played in three games last season and making his NHL debut on March 31, 2015.
“I only have four games played, so it’s not really a big taste,” Koekkoek said. “Coop sees that I’ve played in the league before, and hopefully I can earn their trust.”
Koekkoek said he thought he was skating well in Syracuse before being recalled and hopes that can carry over in Tampa.
“I think I’ll bring some energy and things like that,” he said. “Just help the guys because they’ve got so much skill in here they don’t need me to do anything fancy.”
Cooper wouldn’t divulge whether Koekkoek will be in the lineup tonight but did say he’ll get plenty of opportunities with Garrison out for a month.
“We’re not going to bring Slater up here just to sit on the bench,” Cooper said. “He’s a young kid who needs to play. If he doesn’t play tonight, we’ll get him in soon.”
Before Friday’s morning skate, Tampa Bay forward Jonathan Marchessault switched his jersey number to 81, a move that will remain permanent the rest of the season.
Marchessault said the reason for the change was simple: he was given 42 when he joined the Lightning and wasn’t aware he had options.”
“In Quebec and everywhere since I’m 16, I wore 18,” he said. “I didn’t know I could switch in the middle of the season. I figured that out yesterday.”
Ondrej Palat already wears No. 18 on the Lightning, so Marchessault reversed the numbers to come up with 81.
He’ll wear the new number tonight provided he’s in the lineup. Marchessault ranks tied for fourth among NHL rookies for power-play goals (4) and tied for ninth for power-play points (6).
Lightning alternate captain Ryan Callahan will play in his 600th NHL game tonight, becoming the fourth player on the Bolts’ roster to hit the 600-game milestone, joining Valtteri Filppula (693 games), Matt Carle (697) and Braydon Coburn (671).
Callahan will also play in his 150th game as a member of the Lightning tonight. Callahan previously played 450 games with the New York Rangers.
“Playing 600 games in this league, that’s a feather in your cap for anybody,” Cooper said. “But to play that many games the way he plays the games, it’s pretty impressive.”
Callahan said No. 600 is just another game for him. Only a few milestones really have an impact.
“Obviously, the 1000th game is a big one,” he said. “I think that one definitely has some meaning. Maybe your 100th game, to realize that you’ve kind of established yourself a little bit in the league.”
Which leads us to Vladislav Namestnikov, who played in his 100th NHL game Tuesday in Montreal. Namestnikov said getting to No. 100 doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve made it in the NHL, but it feels good to get there nonetheless.
“It’s a big honor and a privilege to play in 100 games,” Namestnikov said. “Hopefully there’s many more to come.”
Namestnikov currently leads Tampa Bay for plus/minus at +16 and is +15 on the road.
ODDS AND ENDS
The Lightning are riding an eight-game win streak at Amalie Arena into tonight’s matchup vs. the Predators, the longest active home win streak in the NHL. Tampa Bay’s longest-ever home win streak came last season with the Bolts won 10-consecutive games from December 11 to January 31...Cooper said Ben Bishop will start in goal tonight for the Bolts. Bishop lost for just the second time in his last eight starts on Tuesday…The Bolts are 4-4-2 against Central Division teams this season, their lowest points percentage (0.50) vs. any division…Victor Hedman needs one more assist to tie Pavel Kubina (171) for eighth on the Lightning’s all-time assists list. Hedman picked up the 170th assist of his career Tuesday in Montreal.