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Lightning happy to be home after lengthy road trip

Tampa Bay looks to continue the momentum from its most complete game of the season tonight against the Bruins.

by Bryan Burns /

The Tampa Bay Lightning will play their first game at AMALIE Arena since October 20 -- a 13-day span between games at their home rink -- when they take on divisional rival Boston on Thursday.

The Bolts recently completed a six-game road trip in which they finished 3-3-0 but salvaged the trip by blasting the New York Islanders 6-1 on Tuesday following three-consecutive defeats.

The Lightning will look to continue the momentum from their most complete game of the season tonight against the Bruins, who are playing the final game of a four-game road trip.

"We're excited to get back in front of our fans," said Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who is tied with Chicago's Artem Anisimov for the NHL goal lead with seven this season. 

"That was a long road trip to say the least. We'll be ready to go. I think we need to build off last game. That was probably our best game of the season. Just the focus to the details of the game, to getting back to playing well defensively, the offense is going to come from that. We got away from that for a while."

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask presents a formidable challenge for the Lightning. Rask is 5-0-0 in five games this season and has compiled a 1.20 goals-against average and .961 save percentage.

"He's played extremely well," Stamkos said. "He's one of the best in the NHL for a reason. It's going to take a lot to get to him tonight. If anything we built some confidence (scoring 6 goals on Tuesday). But I think what builds confidence for our group is playing the right way and seeing the lucky bounces that you get are the results that you get. They're not necessarily that lucky when you're playing the right way. You deserve a lot of that stuff, so hopefully we can get a few of those tonight."

The Lightning have gone 4-2-2 over the Bruins the last two seasons, but prior to that had lost 10 in a row to Boston before finally breaking through with a 5-3 win on March 22, 2015.

DROUIN INJURED: Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin was hit hard early in the Bolts' victory over the Islanders and didn't return to the game. Drouin is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury.

He wasn't on the ice for Thursday's morning skate, and Lightning head coach Jon Cooper didn't have a definitive update on his status.

"He's going to see our doctors again tonight," Cooper said. "He won't be in the lineup today. He's being evaluated, and we're going to go from there."

Without Drouin in the lineup, the Lightning are missing one of their most dynamic players.

"He's an extremely talented player offensively," Cooper said. "He's got special skills. He's a guy that when it's a one-goal game, every time he's on the ice, he has ability to score for you. Clearly, you're taking a high offensive guy out of our lineup and the one thing is we're blessed that we've got a few of those guys on our team but as he proved in the playoffs last year and the beginning of this year, he adds to our offensive punch. We've been a little inconsistent in that area this year. It seems we're scoring in bunches or we're not scoring at all. It hurts a little bit not having him in, but we've got to be more consistent as a group in scoring."

With Drouin out, Cedric Paquette returns to the lineup after being healthy scratched on Tuesday. Paquette skated on the fourth line with Vladislav Namestnikov (center) and Brian Boyle (right wing).

KOEKKOEK GETS SECOND START: Cooper said Slater Koekkoek, who made his season debut Tuesday in Brooklyn and responded with two assists, doubling his regular season scoring output, will again start tonight for the Bolts.

Koekkoek will be playing in just his 14th career regular season NHL game. He was recalled from AHL Syracuse on October 31.

"Sending him to Syracuse, it wasn't a demotion," Cooper said. "He's going to play some games to be able to be put back in when we needed him the other night. He was really using his legs. He's playing the game with his legs. When he's doing that, he can be really effective. He's been known probably more for his defensive abilities but he showed up on the offensive side of the sheet, made some really headsy plays and we'll have him again here tonight."

Koekkoek's two assists on Tuesday gave him his first-ever multi-point game in the league.

ODDS AND ENDS: Andrei Vasilevskiy was the first Lightning goaltender off the ice from morning skate and will make his fourth start of the season tonight. Vasilevskiy is 2-1-0 with a 2.05 goals-against average and .929 save percentage. He suffered his first loss of the season in his last outing, a 20-save effort in a 3-1 loss in New Jersey five days ago…With one more assist, Victor Hedman can tie Dan Boyle for the franchise record for most all-time assists by a Bolts defenseman (and seventh overall in team history)…Steven Stamkos (7-5-12) and Nikita Kucherov (3-9-12) both rank tied for third in the NHL for scoring…Stamkos is two power-play goals away from tying Vincent Lecavalier for most all-time power-play goals in Bolts history…The Lightning's 6-1 win at the Islanders matched the Lightning's largest road margin of victory during head coach Jon Cooper's tenure (also: 6-1 win at FLA on Dec. 22, 2013).

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