Despite spending the month of April with the Tampa Bay Lightning last season, Thursday’s season opener against the Boston Bruins marks the official start of the Jon Cooper era. With a full training camp now under his belt, the Bolts head coach has a rather difficult task at hand.
The Lightning open their season in a tough barn at TD Garden versus the Bruins. Tampa Bay has only faced Boston once before in a season opener during the 2003-04 season, the same year they went on to win the Stanley Cup.
“Every year you play those teams where it is their home opener,” forward Teddy Purcell said. “We’ve played against Boston a lot in the last couple of years, so we know what to expect. Hopefully we can come out early and quiet the crowd and then take them out of it.”
Jon Cooper shared what it's like having two, NHL-caliber goalies at a team's disposal when naming Lindback as tonight's starter.
Only playing seven games against three opponents (Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, St. Louis Blues) during exhibition play to start this year, a lot of learning is expected to take place in the days ahead. Tampa Bay must remain resilient in the buildings they play in and continue to work on implementing Cooper’s system.
“We’re going to be a team where we worry about how well we execute our game plan,” Purcell said. “You have to be aware of the players they have because there’s a couple who can make plays. We need to eliminate turnovers and limit their chances of getting scoring opportunities.”
The Bolts, who averaged the third-most goals per game (3.06) last season, are also facing 2012-13 Vezina Trophy-winner Tuuka Rask Thursday.
“‘Why not just get thrown into the fire and play against two teams who’re in the Stanley Cup Final?’” Nate Thompson said. “It’s a good measuring stick for us.”
A handful of rookies join Cooper in his season opener debut, including a third-line comprised of Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Richard Panik. Blueliner Andrej Sustr is also expected to be paired with veteran defenseman Eric Brewer. Valtteri Filppula makes his Bolts’ regular season debut as second-line center to Alex Killorn and Teddy Purcell.
Long-time Calgary Flames forward and former 2012-13 Pittsburgh Penguin Jarome Iginla is looking to play his first game with Boston along with Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith and Chad Johnson.
BETWEEN THE PIPES TONIGHT
Heading into the season opener, Cooper said netminders Anders Lindback and Ben Bishop would be working in tandem until one, if so happens, can make his argument for the starting role.
Thursday, Lindback left for the dressing room first after morning skate and is assumed to start in net against the Bruins. The last time Lindback faced Boston, he recorded 22 saves on 24 shots in a 2-0 loss.
ODDS ‘N ENDS
Forward Tom Pyatt and defensemen Keith Aulie and Mark Barberio are Thursday’s scratches.
The Lightning have won eight of their last 10 season openers, including the last three.