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Pregame Notebook: Lightning limp into rematch with Florida

by Bryan Burns / Tampa Bay Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning will be without three of their starters when they take on the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center tonight.

Tyler Johnson, Jonathan Drouin and Cedric Paquette are all out according to Lightning head coach Jon Cooper.

Forwards Jonathan Marchessault and Mike Blunden were recalled from AHL Syracuse on Sunday to provide help. Those two, along with defenseman Matt Taormina, who was recalled on Friday, will all start tonight for the Lightning.

“We are banged up,” Cooper said, who added he thought Johnson might have been able to play but is being held out for precautionary reasons.

Cooper didn’t think any of the three injuries would be long-lasting.

“They’re all going to be OK in the short term,” he said.

Blunden and Taormina will make their season debuts with the Lightning tonight. Marchessault played in two games – Oct. 29 vs. Colorado and Oct. 31 vs. Boston – for the Bolts this season and was minus-1 with one shot combined in both games.

“All these guys we’ve called up have been doing really well (in the minors), and that’s why you have depth in the organization is for times like this,” Cooper said. “It’s challenging for us, but we have confidence in all of these guys.”

GRITTY GOALS

The Lightning seem to have broken out of their scoring slump with seven goals over the last two games.

To maintain that level of offensive production and for the recent scoring surge not to be an anomaly, the Bolts will have to continue getting to the net to manufacture a few ugly scores. In Saturday’s 5-4 shootout loss to Florida, the Lightning got two goals off of a rebound and one from a goal-mouth scramble.

“We were getting pressure. Guys were getting to the net,” Cooper said. “Paquette’s goal was a big-time scramble, guys were digging in there. (On the) fourth goal, (Steven Stamkos) took that hard to the net, and everybody whacked away. That’s what we need. We need to be a threat there.”

Cooper said the Lightning were relying too much on shooting from the outside and had developed a label as a “perimeter team.”

“The more you start challenging other teams going to those areas (close to goal), now they have to respect that, and that opens up everything else in your game,” Cooper said.

VASY IN NET

Cooper confirmed backup goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy will get the start for the Lightning in tonight’s rematch against the Panthers.

Vasilevskiy suffered his first loss this season his last time out after allowing three goals on 26 shots in a 4-1 defeat November 5 versus Buffalo. Vasilevskiy is 2-1-0 with a 2.37 goals-against average and .924 save percentage and will be making his fourth start of the season tonight.

Vasilevskiy was victorious in his lone meeting against Florida when he stopped 33-of-36 shots March 24, 2015, in a 4-3 come-from-behind victory for the Bolts.

QUICK STRIKES

Tampa Bay is playing its second of five meetings this season against Florida…The Lightning fell 5-4 in a shootout to the Panthers on Saturday…The Lightning have won seven of their last nine over the Panthers and seven of their last eight at Florida’s BB&T Center…Five of the last six games between the Lightning and Panthers have been decided by one goal…Lightning captain Steven Stamkos has nine goals this season to lead the Bolts and rank tied for fifth in the NHL…Tampa Bay has allowed a power-play goal in each of its last three games…The Lightning’s penalty kill has a 79.3 percent success rate so far this season, which ranks 19th in the league.

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