The Tampa Bay Lightning go on the road for the first time this preseason as they travel to Carolina to play the Hurricanes, the middle game in a three-games-in-three-days stretch for the Bolts.
Tampa Bay won its first preseason game on Thursday, defeating Florida 2-0 behind a 21-save shutout effort from goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis. Tonight, Andrei Vasilevskiy appears to be the starter in net as he was the first goalie off the ice from morning skate at AMALIE Arena. Vasilevskiy will be making his preseason debut after arriving in Tampa earlier in the week from his stint with Team Russia at the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto.
Also making their Bolts' 2016 preseason debuts tonight after spending time at the WCH will be Ondrej Palat and Nikita Nesterov. Palat played three games for Team Czech Republic and registered one assist. Nesterov saw time in one game, getting 6:47 time on ice in Russia's 5-3 semifinal loss to eventual tournament winner Team Canada.
"It was a great experience playing with some of the best players in (the Czech Republic) and against the best players in the world," Palat said. "But I'm happy to be back now."
Palat said his favorite moment from the WCH was watching his Lightning and Czech teammate Andrej Sustr make a rookie mistake during one of the pretournament games, taking the ice for warmups without a helmet.
"It was his second game with the national team, and he forgot his bucket," Palat said, laughing at the memory. "We all thought it was funny. He thinks he's the man in (the Czech Republic)."
During Friday's morning skate, Palat played the left wing along with regular linemate Tyler Johnson at center. Alex Killorn manned the right wing.
"I'm excited," Palat said about tonight's game. "I'm going to play with special players like Killer and Johnny. I'm looking forward to tonight's game."
Palat has been playing regularly since the start of the WCH, so it shouldn't take him but a shift or two to get caught up to the speed of the game. Rather, Palat will be focusing tonight on playing within the Bolts' system while continuing to develop certain aspects of his game.
"I think you work on a little bit of everything in the preseason," he said. "We do a lot of system stuff and getting comfortable with your linemates and trying to get everyone together and playing good hockey."
The Lightning will travel to Raleigh this afternoon and arrive at PNC Arena a couple hours before puck drop at 7:30 p.m. Following the game against Carolina, the Bolts will fly to Nashville, where they will spend the night ahead of Saturday's contest versus Nashville.
LINE COMBINATIONS: The Lightning will go with the following lines and defensive pairings for their game tonight against Carolina:
Palat Johnson Killorn
Bournival Point Vermin
Ikonen Darcy Hart
Brown Richard Dumont
Vasilevskiy and Gudlevskis are the two goalies for the Lightning tonight.