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Lightning seek to get back in win column at Devils

Tampa Bay has not lost back-to-back contests this regular season.

by Bryan Burns /

The Tampa Bay Lightning have yet to lose back-to-back contests in putting up a 5-2-0 record through their first seven games.

They'll look to continue that trend tonight when they take on the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center, the opening game in the Bolts' first back-to-back set of the season (the Lightning play the New York Rangers on Sunday).

"There's a difference between (the Colorado loss) and (the Montreal loss) in the sense where we lost both games but Colorado we never really had it," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "Montreal, I thought we played significantly better against Montreal. The issue there was we had a one-goal lead in the third period, and we blew it. To me that, as a staff, that's the one that irks us. But we didn't mind a lot of our game, so let's just bring that energy and our start and how we played for most of that game into New Jersey.

"You've got to pull it out of these guys because we're right in the middle of the dog days of a 12-day'er, six-game road trip, but we've got a lot of hockey ahead of us, and against, as we're seeing, these Eastern Conference (teams), every game is just a battle."

The Lightning have had plenty of recent success against New Jersey as they enter tonight's game on a five-game win streak against the Devils, including two straight at the Prudential Center.

Early this season in the second game of the year, the Bolts overcame a 2-0, first-period deficit to win 3-2 at AMALIE Arena.

Tampa Bay plays three of first 12 games of the season against New Jersey as the Devils return to AMALIE Arena on November 5 to complete the three-game season series.

Video: Kucherov on upper body injury

KUCHEROV SKATES: Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov, who is listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury after losing an edge and crashing into the boards Thursday night in Montreal, joined the Bolts toward the end of Saturday's morning skate at the Prudential Center wearing a red no-contact jersey.

Kucherov sustained the injury in the first period at Montreal and continued to play in the period but didn't return for the second or third.

Cooper wasn't optimistic Kucherov would be able to play again on the current road trip, which ends Tuesday at the New York Islanders, but didn't rule it out either.

"I guess could is the word," Cooper said. "Can he? I'm not so sure. I know he's feeling much better today and he's improving but definitely out tonight."

Kucherov said he's improving and felt good during his practice session Saturday. He wasn't sure how severe the injury would be when it happened, but it appears not to be as serious as it could have been.

"I didn't think about it," he said. "I just got hurt and my thoughts were try to get back as soon as possible."

CONACHER CALLUP: With Kucherov on the shelf at least for the New Jersey game, the Lightning recalled Cory Conacher from their AHL affiliate in Syracuse on Friday.

Tonight, Conacher will likely make his first start in the NHL since Dec. 2, 2014 when he was with the New York Islanders.

"We signed Cory for a reason, and it was for situations like this," Cooper said. "First and foremost, I know out of camp he was hoping to make the team. He didn't, but as we tell our guys early on, the 22 or 23 that make the opening-day roster, that's not just our team. Our team is 30 guys deep, 35 guys, because injuries and everything at some point come into play…I've had the experience with him in the minors and coaching him and he's come a long way. The one thing that kid does, he competes really hard. He can skate. He can shoot the puck. With Kuch out of the lineup, we need someone to fill those shoes, and we're hoping Cory can do that."

Video: Conacher on call up from Syracuse Crunch

Conacher recorded two goals and three assists in four games with the Crunch to start the season.

"I felt like I did pretty well down there in Syracuse," Conacher said. "The team was doing generally okay. I was doing everything I could down there to get this callup and whether it's for one game, 10 games, I've got to play every game like it might be my last one up here. Hopefully, I can help the team win."

Conacher skated on the left wing with Valtteri Filppula (center) and Brayden Point (right wing) during line rushes at morning skate. Conacher had a chance to make the Lightning out of training camp but was one of the last players assigned to Syracuse before Opening Night.

"I knew if I just put my working boots on, good things would happen," he said. "Fortunately, that happened sooner than later, and hopefully I can take advantage of this opportunity tonight."

ODDS AND ENDS: Andrei Vasilevskiy was the last goaltender off the ice from morning skate and will make his third start of the season. Vasilevskiy got his first action of 2016-17 in the second game of the season against this same Devils team. He stopped 32-of-34 shots in the Bolts' 3-2, come-from-behind win. Vasilevskiy ranks third in the NHL for save percentage (.952) and tied for third for goals-against average (1.51)…Alex Killorn can match his career high for consecutive games with a goal (4 games) set Nov. 17-22, 2015 with another tally tonight. Killorn has scored in three-straight games and six of seven games to start the season…The Lightning were 8-5-0 in the first game of a back-to-back set last season.

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