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Special Teams Pivotal Against Disciplined Devils

by Missy Zielinski / Tampa Bay Lightning

Like a lot of pieces of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the power play has been starting to move in the right direction during its latest stretch of games.

"I have been happy with the progression," head coach Jon Cooper said. "I thought we could have had more than one Thursday, we had them outnumbered in front of the net and a lot of rebound chances and at no time did our power play kill our momentum."

With lines combinations being the first thing to shift post trade deadline, the special teams' units were also summoned to regroup.

Ryan Callahan, a player known for his net-front presence, was an immediate addition to the penalty kill in his first game as a Bolt. He was then worked into the power play the very next game. Steven Stamkos and Valtteri Filppula also re-joined the power play upon getting healthy and are steadily getting back to their game.

"I'm getting more and more comfortable," Callahan said. "Our systems change a little bit with different teams, especially special teams, but it's part of the game and hopefully my comfort level continues to grow."

"It takes a little while to feel normal," Filppula said. "Since I've got back I've been feeling okay, but I felt pretty good last game."

Earning a power-play goal in Thursday's contest against the Panthers, it was the Bolts first tally on the man advantage since March 4 in St. Louis.

The marker, scored by Steven Stamkos, was welcomed as the power play had gone just 4-for-41 in 16 games prior, including a period of seven straight games without a power-play goal.

"Hopefully our goal last game gives us more confidence to score a little more moving forward," Filppula said.

If they're able to carry over the confidence from last game it could give them the opportunity to jump on the Devils early if a power play opportunity arises as New Jersey often makes it tough for their opponents to find any room in the offensive zone.

"You get an opportunity 5-on-4 against them and you have to take advantage," Cooper said. "New Jersey is a hard team to break through and score on, so that's what we need to win the game."

New Jersey, one of the most disciplined teams in the league, is among the Top-3 least penalized teams, but was called for five penalties Friday against Florida.

Seeing the Lightning re-ignite on the man advantage Saturday could be a chance for Tampa Bay to continue their winning ways during the last leg of the homestand. It would also be just what they need with a three-game road trip that features two Atlantic division opponents and one of the Eastern Conference's best, the Pittsburgh Penguins, next week.

  • Ben Bishop was first off the ice for the Lightning and is expected to start against the Devils' Martin Brodeur. Brodeur handed the Bolts a 3-0 whitewash in their last meeting, which was his 124th career shutout.
  • Formerly a member of the Metropolitan Division, Ryan Callahan has amassed 10 goals and 14 assists in 31 career games versus New Jersey.
  • In his first game since returning from a lower body injury on Thursday, Radko Gudas landed a game-high 10 hits against the Panthers.
  • Devils head coach Peter DeBoer is looking for his 200th career win when he comes to Tampa Bay on Saturday.
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