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No dearth of scorers for the Lightning

Early on, Tampa Bay has taken advantage of a variety of scoring threats throughout the lineup

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

Roughly a week into the new season, the Tampa Bay Lightning entered practice Wednesday as one of the National Hockey League's top scoring teams.

Following a full slate of games Tuesday night, the Bolts ranked tied for fifth in the league for goals (13) and are tied for fourth for goals per game (4.33).

The Bolts have certainly been more than capable finding the back of the net in recent seasons. They've finished in the top half of the league for scoring the last seven seasons and were the league's top scoring team as recently as the 2014-15 season.

But it's the depth in scoring that has been so impressive to watch early in 2017-18. Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos are expected to put up high goal totals, but the scoring has come from more than just the Bolts' top line so far this season. Brayden Point has picked up where he left off at the end of his rookie season with goals in all three games to start 2017-18 to go along with four assists. Point is currently tied for second in the league for scoring.

Video: WSH@TBL: Kucherov goes top shelf on the backhand

Vladislav Namestnikov scored a goal in each of the first two games. Alex Killorn scored a much-needed goal to get the Lightning on the board on Monday against Washington. Chris Kunitz tallied his first goal as a member of the Lightning in the same game.

The Lightning, it would appear, aren't limited to just one or two guys to score the bulk of the goals. A look up and down the roster shows close to 10 players with a legitimate chance to score at least 20 goals this season.

"For us as a team to have depth scoring, it's not just Kuch or Stammer or the usual suspects that score every goal, to have Pointer, (Tyler) Johnson, (Ondrej) Palat, everyone scoring, it's huge for us," said Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman, who has yet to score a goal himself this season but is also a threat to ring the back of the net when he touches the puck. "(Chris) Kunitz scored his first one. Vlad (Namestnikov's) got a couple. Him playing with Kuch and Stammer, we saw last year before Stammer went down, how deadly they were. It's fun to see a lot of guys contributing, and not just on the scoring sheet but with the way they play too. To be able to put the puck in the net and have that throughout all four lines is deadly."

Currently, the Lightning have four players - Kucherov, Namestnikov, Point and Palat - with multiple goals. Only Chicago (6), Toronto (6) and St. Louis (5) have more. Chicago and St. Louis have played one more game than the Lightning too.

The balanced scoring keeps opposing defenses from keying on one player or one line. That makes it difficult for teams to send their top pair or their best checking line out on the ice to shut down the Lightning's best line because they don't have a best line.

Video: WSH@TBL: Kunitz tips in Stralman's shot for the goal

They're all capable of creating dangerous scoring chances.

"If you see a team coming in and you see a lot of guys scoring, it's obviously tough to match up and to have certain guys out against their top players because they have threats on other lines as well," Hedman said. "As a defenseman, you've just got to go in there and every time you're on the ice make sure you know who you're up against."

That's the issue for opposing defenses currently when they play the Lightning: Everybody they're up against can score.

As long as the Bolts continue to get scoring up and down the lineup, they'll maintain their reputation as one of the toughest teams in the league to defend.

PAQUETTE NOT AT PRACTICE: For the second-straight day, Lightning center Cedric Paquette did not practice with the rest of his teammates and was held out for body maintenance according to the team. Paquette recorded his first point of the season (an assist) in the 4-3 overtime win over the Capitals on Monday. His availability for Thursday's game versus Pittsburgh is uncertain, although Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said on Tuesday he expected Paquette to be okay.

 

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