The Tampa Bay Lightning have a chance to accomplish a feat tonight that's eluded them since mid-December.
Win back-to-back hockey games.
Coming off a 3-2 shootout victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday, the Bolts will look for their second-consecutive win tonight when they host another Pacific Division foe in the Los Angeles Kings at AMALIE Arena (7:30 p.m. puck drop).
The last time the Lightning won back-to-back games came when they defeated the Detroit Red Wings on December 20 and followed with a 5-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues. Prior to that, the Bolts last win streak was mid-November when they reeled off four wins in a row, all on the road.
For a team trying to get back into a playoff spot, going on an extended win streak is imperative. The Bolts begin their quest for that elusive run against the Kings.
"We know we have some ground to make up, but at the same time, we know there's going to be teams around us that are going to lose and win, so we've just got to focus on what we can control and that's to win as many games as possible," Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said following the Bolts' practice on Monday. "Obviously, it was a good one to get against Anaheim…I liked our effort…If we give more efforts like that, we're going to get more results."
The Lightning played one of their best games of the season against the Ducks but still needed a shootout to come away with the win and two points. Even the shootout was dicey as Nikita Kucherov converted for the first time this season in a do-or-die spot in the third round, and Ben Bishop came up with a big stop in the fourth round, giving Brian Boyle the opportunity to put the Ducks away with his fourth round attempt.
"We took it to them early, and we only had a small lead to show for it," Boyle said. "That lead went away when we stopped playing. It didn't take long for that lead to go away. You play 90 percent of the game, you feel like you're executing really well and it still takes a shootout to get the win. We've got to understand that our attention to detail has to be there, especially down the stretch. It's hard to win games."
The Lightning showed a resiliency against Anaheim that has been missing for large portions of the season, regrouping for the victory after the Ducks rallied to level the score 2-2 early in the third period.
"The big thing for me was: Which way were we going to go?" Cooper said. "Were we going to let another one slip away, or are we going to dig our heels in and win a hockey game? And that's what they did. That's a positive sign for us. Hopefully we keep that going."
DOTCHIN IMPRESSES: Since being recalled to the Lightning on January 17 and making his NHL debut four nights later at Arizona, defenseman Jake Dotchin has continued to turn heads with his consistent play and early adaption to the NHL level.
Dotchin has played all five games since his arrival and earned his first point in the league (an assist) in game No. 4 on January 31 versus Boston.
"He's been playing great," Hedman said. "He's got a great shot, good positioning, tough to play against. He's got all the tools to be a regular in the NHL. He's been playing great and that's what we need."
Dotchin has been partnered with Hedman during his first foray into the league and has surprised with his ability to hold his own on the Bolts' top defensive pairing.
"First of all, we like the lefty-righty combo, but there's nothing wrong with putting a young guy in the league with a player that's been in the league for seven or eight years or whatever (Hedman) has," Cooper explained about the rationale behind the Hedman-Dotchin pairing. "Victor, he can make guys around him better, and it's something for Jake to learn. So, to have that combination and to have two big guys like that together and Jake's a little bit more of a defender and he can help defend with Victor, we think it's a really good pairing. It's been good for us."
Cooper said the 22-year-old Dotchin improved his foot speed and has gotten stronger from training camp, which has allowed him to find early success in the league.
"The Jake Dotchin we're seeing right now is probably not the Jake Dotchin we saw at the start of the season," Cooper said. "He went down (to the AHL). He developed. He was in really good shape. He just honed his game, another 40-plus games of pro hockey before he came here. He's done really well."
INJURY UPDATES: Ondrej Palat did not participate in the Bolts' practice session on Monday, which would seem to indicate he's not ready to return to the lineup tonight against the Kings. Palat missed the game against Anaheim with a lower-body injury. Michael Bournival, however, did suit up for Monday's practice session and wore a regular jersey for the second-straight day. Bournival has sat the last three games with an upper-body injury but could be close to returning. Cedric Paquette got dinged up at the end of the Anaheim game but practiced fully on Monday and appears to be a go for tonight's game.
ICE CHIPS: The Lightning didn't hold a morning skate on Tuesday after practicing for two-consecutive days following the shootout victory over the Ducks…Alex Killorn has points in four of his last five games (3 goals, 3 assists) and can match a career high for goals in a season (17 in 2013-14) with one more tally…Anton Stralman will play in his 200th career game as a member of the Lightning tonight provided he's in the lineup as expected. Stralman can also reach career point No. 200 with one more point…Likewise, Tyler Johnson is one point away from reaching the 200-point milestone.