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Pre-Game Notebook: Youngest Bolts Coming In Hot

by Missy Zielinski / Tampa Bay Lightning

When the Tampa Bay Lightning last played the Pittsburgh Penguins in October, they led an even offensive attack with nine different players registering at least one point despite the loss.

This past Wednesday seven different players recorded a point in a 4-2 win against the Philadelphia Flyers.

The only difference between the two games? Wednesday they were ever reliant on their depth chart with the Bolts roster depleting due to injury.

Now the Lightning will see if they can play a similar game Friday, but end up victorious as they continue to depend on contributions from the whole.


Nikita Kucherov has made a lasting impression during the past two games.

“He knows where the puck is going to be before the puck knows it is going there and when he gets there he shoots it,” head coach Jon Cooper said.

After recording his first NHL goal on his first shot of his first shift, he added a team-leading six shots on goal in Wednesday’s game versus the Flyers. Though he did not tally on any of those shots, it is that consistency that will eventually lead to scoring.

“He has a lot to learn about the NHL game,” Cooper said. “He really could show a lot of guys on our team, who have played NHL games that this is what you do, this is how you get shots on goal.”

Kucherov’s playing time also increased by almost five minutes (15:56) last game and he was awarded 2:43 on the power-play


Solidifying Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Richard Panik as “NHL players now,” Cooper knows they have also been stepping up at a crucial time in the Bolts campaign.

Riding a four-game point streak while the rest of the team could not generate much offense on the west coast, Johnson went the next two games without a point, but picked up where he left off Wednesday netting a goal and adding an assist.

“I thought he played outstanding,” Cooper said. “He was on the ice for the shorthanded goal, the power-play goal, the even strength goal and the empty-netter. That’s a pretty good night in my book.”

Palat added his first career shorthanded goal, while he and Panik combined for a plus-3 rating on the night.


The Lightning had the morning off with the early start.

Though Ben Bishop left morning skate abruptly on Wednesday, Cooper said post-game that “both goalies would be completely available” for their game versus the Penguins.

With a seven-game losing skid against Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay hopes to defeat the Penguins for the first time since November of 2011.

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