The Tampa Bay Lightning are just 1-3-1 in the preseason following a 4-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Johnstown, Penn., on Tuesday.
It’s not time to hit the panic button quite yet, but with Opening Night a week away and just two preseason games remaining on the schedule, it’s imperative the Lightning quickly find their rhythm.
The Bolts host the Dallas Stars in preseason game No. 6 tonight at Amalie Arena. The Stars downed the Lightning 6-3 in Dallas on Saturday.
“We’re getting down to our last two (preseason) games, and we almost have to consider these regular season games although our lineup is not what it will be come Opening Night,” Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said. “But we’ve got to start clicking now. I was hoping for a little bit better performance the other night in Johnstown, and so that’s been addressed.
“I would expect us to be clicking a little bit better tonight.”
Ben Bishop will likely get the start in net for the Lightning. He was the first goaltender off the ice at morning skate, ahead of backup Kristers Gudlevskis. Bishop was between the pipes for Tampa Bay’s lone win this preseason, a 4-1 home victory over Nashville, and played half the game, stopping all 18 shots he faced.
Recently-acquired goalie Kevin Poulin was not part of the game group on the ice for morning skate but could see action Saturday at Florida according to Cooper.
Lightning forward Cedric Paquette skated for the first time today - albeit not with the game group for tonight’s matchup against the Stars – since being struck in the left leg by a hard slap shot Saturday and having to leave the game.
X-rays were negative, and Paquette said he should be ready to skate with the rest of his teammates in a couple days.
“I knew it wasn’t a good spot to be hit,” he said. “I was worried a little bit, but it’s better than we thought.”
Paquette has a cut on his left leg that required five stitches, and the placement of the cut makes it difficult for him to skate.
“It’s not so much the pain part of it, it’s where he’s cut,” Cooper said. “It’s just a tough spot for the skate. I think annoyingly as he says, he’s got to wait this out a little bit. He wants to get out there, but…it should be in the next couple days he’ll be back.”
Paquette, who wore a red jersey while skating today, won’t be in tonight’s lineup. But he could be back Saturday for the preseason finale at Florida.
Either way, Paquette said he should be fine by the start of the regular season.
“The plan was to play Saturday, but we’ll see Saturday,” Paquette said. “I think next week I should be 100 percent.”
Lightning prospect Brayden Point was assigned to his junior club Moose Jaw of the Western Hockey League this morning.
Point played in two preseason games for the Lightning and was minus-two with three shots.
Following morning skate, Cooper said the remaining 28 players in camp would figure heavily into the Bolts plans this season.
“You look at all the guys we have left, I don’t really consider these roster spots open or not,” he said. “Everybody that’s here is probably going to play for us this year at some point.”