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At the Rink: Lightning at Panthers

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Lightning will be without three players Monday when they try to take the back end of a home-and-home set against the Florida Panthers (7:30 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, SUN, FS-F).

Lightning coach John Cooper said after an optional morning skate that forwards Tyler Johnson, Jonathan Drouin and Cedric Paquette would miss the game at BB&T???Center because of various injuries.

The Lightning recalled forwards Mike Blunden and Jonathan Marchessault from the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League on Sunday.

Blunden, who began his NHL???career in 2006-07 with the Chicago Blackhawks, will be playing his first game of the season.

"He's been around the block,"???Cooper said. "He's played in NHL games. He's got poise. He knows the players in the League, he knows where to be on the ice. We've got complete confidence in him. And he's been doing really well in the minors.

"All these guys we've called up have performed really well down there. That's why we need depth in the organization, is for times like this. It's challenging for us, but we've got complete confidence in all these guys."

Tampa Bay is 3-6-2 in its past 11 games, including a 5-4 shootout loss against the Panthers at Amalie Arena on Saturday.

The Lightning begin a three-game homestand Thursday against the New York Rangers.

"We need to get guys healthy in both mind and body,"???Cooper said. "This break should help out."

The Panthers won Saturday when forward Brandon Pirri scored the only goal in the shootout. Pirri became the first player in NHL???history to score on a penalty shot and score the game-winner in a shootout in the same game.

Florida will have center Aleksander Barkov back in the lineup Monday after a 10-game absence but will be without defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, who sustained a lower-body injury Saturday.

"He's real dependable,"???Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said of Barkov. "He's a young player, but he's so good at both ends of the ice. He's a 200-foot player and he's a big, strong guy. Faceoffs. Power play. Penalty killing. He does it all for us. He's a big part of our team. But other guys stepped up and played big roles and that's how you win."

The Panthers went 4-4-2 during Barkov's absence.

Barkov is expected to reunite on the Panthers' first line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Jaromir Jagr. That line has been together since the Panthers acquired Jagr in a trade with the New Jersey Devils last February.

Barkov said he didn't think it would take any time for the trio to click again.

"Last year when [Jagr]???came, we had a couple of chances in our first shift, so I???think we didn't lose anything,"???Barkov said. "We just keep going and play the same way as we did.

"It's a lot of fun to play with those guys. You don't think too much, you know where to go and they know where to go."

Barkov, 20, was second on the Panthers with three goals and six points in seven games when he was injured Oct. 22 against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Gallant will coach his 100th game with the Panthers.

"It's been great,"???said Gallant, who has a 45-36-18 record with Florida. "It's been fun. Last year coming in here I???didn't know what we had really. I???knew we had some good young players, but I didn't know the team was going to be as strong as we ended up being last season.

"Overall, I?????????think we're a hard-working, competitive team that's getting better every game. We're getting better, we're getting stronger, we've got a great core of young players that are getting better every night and we've got some great leadership, veteran leadership. I think the team is headed in the right direction for sure."

Here are the projected lines:


Vladislav Namestnikov - Steven Stamkos - Ryan Callahan

Alex Killorn - Nikita Kucherov - J.T. Brown

Brian Boyle - Valtteri Filppula - Erik Condra

Jonathan Marchessault - Mike Blunden

Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman

Braydon Coburn - Jason Garrison

Matthew Carle - Andrej Sustr

Matt Taormina

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Ben Bishop

Injured: Ondrej Palat (ankle), Tyler Johnson (upper body), Jonathan Drouin (undisclosed), Cedric Paquette (undisclosed)

Scratched: None


Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Jaromir Jagr

Jussi Jokinen - Nick Bjugstad - Reilly Smith

Brandon Pirri - Dave Bolland - Vincent Trocheck

Quinton Howden - Derek MacKenzie - Rocco Grimaldi

Brian Campbell - Aaron Ekblad

Willie Mitchell - Erik Gudbranson

Steven Kampfer - Alex Petrovic

Roberto Luongo

Al Montoya

Injured: Dmitry Kulikov (lower body)

Scratched:???????????????????????????Shawn Thornton, Garrett Wilson

Status report: The Lightning will go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen. Taormina will play in his first NHL game since Dec. 17, 2013. Cooper said he didn't know whether Paquette, Drouin or Johnson would be ready to play Thursday, but said he didn't think any of the injuries were of the long-term variety. … Kulikov was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday, but Gallant said he didn't think the injury was serious. Kampfer will appear in only his second game of the season after being a healthy scratch for 16 of the first 17 games.

Who's hot: Stamkos has two goals and two assists during a three-game point streak. … Jokinen and Huberdeau each have a goal and three assists during three-game point streaks.

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