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Lightning rookies consistently contribute, despite recent slump

by Missy Zielinski / Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning rookies Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat continue to be key components of the Lightning offense, even though they are no longer paired on the same line.

Johnson, who is riding a current four-game point streak that has included three shorthanded points, became the third rookie in Tampa Bay Lightning history Monday to reach the 20-goal plateau.

Palat, meanwhile, has 17 goals and is closing in on the 20-goal mark himself to join that exclusive list.

Even with individual proficiency on the stat sheet, the duo understands the team's success overrules most individual accomplishments.

"I would trade away my own points for team points any day," Palat said.

For Johnson, accountability to his teammates is a driving factor.

"You want to play for the guys next to you," Johnson said. "That goes along way, because it takes a whole team to win games and that's the driving force behind everyone here."

Palat's ability to mesh quickly with different linemates has helped the Lightning this season. He feels his skillset has skyrocketed because of playing with Martin St. Louis earlier in the season and now his newest linemates, Valtteri Filppula and Ryan Callahan.

"Filppula and Callahan have a lot of experience," Palat said. "It's all about confidence and since playing with Marty [St. Louis], Val and Cally, my confidence has just continued to grow."

Still it is there team-first mentality that has kept them positive amidst a slump, that is coming at a very inopportune time.

"When you're in a rut like this you have to rely on the whole team," Johnson said. "Everyone realizes that we're making some mental mistakes that shouldn't happen, but we're working hard, so it's bound to come around and once we can tighten up the mental state we're in, it will help out."

Head coach Jon Cooper acknowledges the impact the team's young core has made above and beyond the contributions of Johnson and Palat. Cooper said J.T. Brown's energy, Alex Killorn finding his legs and Richard Panik adding great minutes are keeping the team afloat.

"Our young guys are helping us survive right now," head coach Jon Cooper said.


When forward Richard Panik learned he was going to be loaned to the Lightning's AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, prior to the Olympic break he was not frustrated, but looking forward to the chance to get some regular ice time.

"I was in-and-out of the lineup with Tampa Bay," Panik said. "I just wanted to play and get my confidence back and was just glad to play more."

In the two games since re-joining the Bolts, Cooper has been more than happy with Panik's performance.

Not only having a seventh round shootout goal that was just off the mark as it it the post just over Tukka Rask's shoulder, but some Grade-A chances has shown Panik that being reassigned was not meant to discourage.

"They haven't gone in for him yet," Cooper said, "But he's been way more assertive. He's found himself and he's been way more assertive, used his body, his speed and not turning pucks over as he did a little bit more regularly in the past."

  • Radko Gudas and Sami Salo, who are both suffering from lower body injuries, skated today in regular practice jerseys. While Cooper said Tuesday they were questionable to return Thursday, he said their status will be reevaluated after tomorrow's morning skate.
  • Not only did Mark Barberio shave off his long locks Wednesday, but Lightning captain Steven Stamkos challenged all rookies to participate in the even that raised money for the Pediatric Cancer Foundation. Others who also shaved their heads included B.J. Crombeen, Ryan Malone and more thn 35 Lightning staff members.
  • Both the Bolts and Thursday's opponent, the Florida Panthers, have collected just four points since returning from Olympic break.
  • Line combinations from Wednesday: Palat-Filppula-Callahan; Killorn-Stamkos-Johnson; Kucherov-Pyatt-Purcell; Brown-Thompson-Panik
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