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Lightning tinker with lines following J.T. Brown injury

by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning

With J.T. Brown out for the rest of Tampa Bay’s First Round series against Detroit because of an upper-body injury sustained blocking a shot in Game 2, the Lightning will insert Erik Condra into the lineup for the first time in the series.

Condra, who appeared in 54 games with the Lightning in the regular season and tallied six goals and five assists, will make his playoff debut with the Bolts tonight in Game 3.

During Tampa Bay’s morning skate at Joe Louis Arena on Sunday, Condra slotted in at left wing on the Bolts’ fourth line with Brian Boyle (center) and Mike Blunden (right wing).

“I like that mix of Condra, Blunden and Boyle,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “They’ve played together before and been really effective.”

Vladislav Namestnikov took morning skate rushes on the third line, centering Cedric Paquette (left wing) and Ryan Callahan (right wing). Namestnikov filled in on that same line in Game 2 once Brown went to the locker room during the first period.

“It doesn’t really change anybody’s roles,” Cooper said. “They’ve got to go do their job.”

Namestnikov said, despite the line movement, his mindset will remain the same: “Get (the puck) deep, and hit bodies.”

MRAZEK REPLACES HOWARD IN NET FOR WINGS

Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill said he will make a switch in goaltenders for Game 3, bringing in Petr Mrazek to replace Jimmy Howard.

Mrazek started all seven games in last year’s First Round series against the Lightning and played well, shutting out the Bolts in Games 3 and 5.

“We’ve played him numerous times,” Cooper said. “We’ve actually gone against Mrazek more than we’ve probably seen Howard. Regardless of who’s in goal, it doesn’t change our mindset, how we have to play. When we get a chance, we’ve got to shoot the puck on him. That’s it.”

Lightning left winger Alex Killorn said Mrazek comes out of the net to challenge the shooter a bit more than Howard.

“They play similar,” Killorn said. “(Mrazek’s) a little smaller than Howard. It seems like he fights for pucks a little harder than Howard. He’s a great goalie. Last year in the playoffs, he played really well, so we expect the same tonight.”

Mrazek played in 54 games for Detroit this season and went 27-16-5 with a 2.33 goals-against average and .921 save percentage. Mrazek started one game against the Lightning in the regular season, a 3-1 Tampa Bay win at Amalie Arena on Feb. 3. Mrazek came on in relief of Howard in the Bolts runaway 6-2 home victory over the Wings on March 22 after Howard gave up three goals on 16 shots. Mrazek didn’t fare much better, allowing three more goals on 18 shots.

PLAYING IN THE JOE

With the First Round series between Tampa Bay and Detroit shifting to Joe Louis Arena for Game 3 tonight, the Lightning will have to deal with a hostile crowd looking to swing momentum toward the Red Wings.

That’s just fine with Tyler Johnson, who says he’d rather play in front of 20,000-plus fans cheering fiercely against him than a passive crowd.

“It’s a tough building. The fans are great here,” said Johnson, who leads the NHL for playoff scoring with six points (2 goals, 4 assists). “They’re obviously really loud and they pump up the home team. With us, you just can’t really think about it. Personally, I like playing in a loud building compared to a quiet building, whether it’s for you or against you. It just makes it that much more fun. Playoffs it’s always a great atmosphere (in Detroit), so we’re looking forward to it.”

The Lightning had success at Joe Louis Arena in last year’s playoff series, the Bolts winning two of three in Detroit, including a do-or-die Game 6 when the Red Wings had a chance to close out the Bolts at home.

“We just have to understand we’ve played here before,” Cooper said. “We had a long playoff series against them last year, a couple games early in the season, so we kind of know what to expect. But there’s no question that the comforts of home and home ice and all those things, I’m sure Detroit’s going to come out flying and we just have to draw from our experience of the past of, ‘OK, we’ve done this in Chicago, we’ve done this in New York, we’ve done this in Montreal, we’ve done this in Detroit.’ We know what to expect and how to handle that.”

ODDS AND ENDS

Besides leading the NHL for playoff scoring, Johnson is tied with Washington’s Marcus Johansson for the league lead for playoff assists (4) and is level with teammates Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn for the top playoff plus/minus (+6) in the league…Johnson (16 career playoff goals) moved into fourth place on Tampa Bay’s all-time postseason goals list with his two tallies in Game 2, passing Steven Stamkos (15)…The Lightning are 11-6 all-time in Game 3s and have won their last three Game 3s…Tampa Bay goaltender Ben Bishop has given up two goals or less in his last five playoff starts and seven of his last eight playoff starts dating back to last season.

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