Going on a tad bit of a scoring drought, the second line compromised of Alex Killorn, Valtteri Filppula and Teddy Purcell have begun to catch fire.
It all started with a Killorn empty-netter in a 3-0 shutout win versus Detroit at Joe Louis Arena on December 15 (Filppula picked up an assist). Since the line has contributed eight points (five goals, three assists).
“That’s a line that plays quite a bit for us,” head coach Jon Cooper said. “We need there to be more than one go-to line. Along with the top line of [Ondrej] Palat, [Tyler] Johnson and [Martin] St. Louis, that’s a really good one-two punch.”
Though the empty-netter seemed to trigger an offensive outburst from the trio, Purcell said the two-goal rally from Filppula in the final three minutes of play against the New York Islanders Tuesday was the turning point for the second line.
“Filppula got those lucky breaks at the end to give us some confidence and get us rolling the past couple games,” Purcell said. “Hockey’s a weird game sometimes. You’re working just as hard and you get a bounce here-and-there and that’s what it takes to get going.”
Filppula added that their output has not only put confidence in them, but the rest of the team in that they do not have to rely on one line or one person.
PYATT TO PLAY
Thursday forward Tom Pyatt expressed his excitement on his imminent return to the Bolts’ lineup. Saturday Pyatt will be slated in as Cooper said the center is ready to go.
“This is the longest I’ve been out even in juniors,” Pyatt Said. “I’m happy it’s over with and I’ll have to tell myself to slow down the first couple shifts.”
His versatility to play on the power play and penalty kill along with him being a center, a position the Bolts have been lacking since Stamkos went down according to Cooper, makes him a welcomed addition to the roster.
Despite not able to travel as much, rehabbing on a daily basis and putting in tough skates with assistant coach George Gwozdecky the hardest part for the third-year Tampa Bay forward during his time on injured reserve was actually coming to the realization he was going to be out for an extended period of time.
“I just want to join in on the team’s success and help be a big part of it,” Pyatt said.
MALONE OUT UNTIL NEW YEAR
Since succumbing to injury on November 22 in Anaheim, Ryan Malone has been left out of the conversation, besides a mention that he has taken part in a handful of skates prior to Lightning practices as of late.
Cooper said today that while Malone’s return is not “so far into the distance future,” he is not expected to re-join the team before the New Year.
ODDS ‘N ENDS
Goaltender Ben Bishop, who has recorded two shutouts in two career games against the Hurricanes, will start in net Saturday night.
The Bolts are expected to go with 11 forwards and seven defenseman, as Pyatt draws in and Mark Barberio, B.J. Crombeen and P.C. Labrie are all expected to be healthy scratches.