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At the Rink: Senators at Lightning

by Corey Long

TAMPA -- The "Triplets Line" of Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov will likely be back on the ice Thursday when the Tampa Bay Lightning face the Ottawa Senators at Amalie Arena (7:30 p.m. ET; RDS2, TSN5, SUN).

Palat has missed the past 12 games with an ankle injury but was a full participant in practice Wednesday as the Lightning (13-12-3) return home for the next six games.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper would not confirm Palat's return to the ice.

"We'll see tonight," Cooper said.

Lightning center Tyler Johnson, who has been dealing with several injuries himself, is excited to see what his line can do with all three members finally healthy at the same time. Last season the line was one of the most productive in the NHL, with all three members scoring over 60 points and having plus-30 or better ratings.

Before Johnson and Palat were hit with injuries the line had struggled to match its 2014-15 performance. The Lightning offense is struggling as well, scoring 2.32 goals per game, nearly one goal under the 3.16 they averaged last season to lead the League.

"There were a lot of thing that were going on … and then we got those injuries once we started to feel a little bit better and really haven't been able to connect after that," Johnson said. "Hopefully we can continue what we finished last season."

The Senators (15-8-5) are on the third game of a four-game road trip. They are 1-1-0 on the trip so far after a 4-2 win against the Florida Panthers on Tuesday.

Senators coach Dave Cameron said that there are a lot of similarities between his team and the Lightning.

"I think we try the same way in terms of holding on to pucks and things like that," Cameron said. "Obviously [Tampa] has gone deeper in the (Stanley Cup) Playoffs and so therefore have the extra experience of doing that and the extra confidence and swagger … and that's where we're trying to get to."

Senators defenseman Marc Methot said the team should be refreshed after a day off and prepared for the challenge.

"They are very offensive, they have some great talented players up front," Methot said. "Our game plan hasn't changed we're going to try our best to make sure we eliminate all those big chances."

The Senators will start Craig Anderson (13-7-3) in goal for the 13th straight game. The Lightning will go with Ben Bishop (11-8-2), who is 6-0-3 all-time against the Senators.

Bishop will get his first look at long-time friend Senators defenseman Chris Wideman. The two players attended Chaminade Prep in St. Louis, albeit at different times. Wideman said the two became friends when they played together in Binghamton of the American Hockey League.

"He's one of the better goalies in the League, so it's going to be a good challenge," Wideman said. "I'm looking forward to having an opportunity [to score] and that would be maybe a little sweeter than my first [NHL goal]."

The Lightning reassigned goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy to Syracuse of the American Hockey League and recalled goalie Kristers Gudlevskis on Thursday. Vasilevskiy is 2-4-0 with a 2.76 goals-against average and .910 save percentage this season.

Here are the projected lineups:


Mike Hoffman - Kyle Turris - Bobby Ryan

Zack Smith - Mika Zibanejad - Mark Stone

Curtis Lazar - Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Alex Chiasson

Dave Dziurzynski - Chris Neil

Marc Methot - Erik Karlsson

Patrick Wiercioch - Cody Ceci

Jared Cowen - Chris Wideman

Mark Borowiecki

Craig Anderson

Chris Driedger

Injured: Andrew Hammond (upper body), Chris Phillips (back), Clarke MacArthur (concussion), Milan Michalek (finger)

Scratched:?????????Shane Prince


Jonathan Drouin - Steven Stamkos - Alex Killorn

Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov

J.T. Brown - Valtteri Filppula - Ryan Callahan

Vladislav Namestnikov - Brian Boyle - Jonathan Marchessault

Anton Stralman - Victor Hedman

Matthew Carle - Jason Garrison

Braydon Coburn - Andrej Sustr

Ben Bishop

Kristers Gudlevskis

Injured: Erik Condra (lower body), Cedric Paquette (upper body)

Scratched: Nikita Nesterov

Status report: Cameron said the Senators would have no lineup changes and continue to go with 11 forwards and seven defenseman. … Cooper wouldn't reveal his lineup for Thursday but Nesterov and Drouin spent extra time on the ice. … Before sending Vasilevskiy to Syracuse, Cooper suggested the goalie needed to go through the learning process. "Ben Bishop is our starter right now and if there's a little pocket where [Vasilevskiy] can get games that's going to be the plan for him. Other than that's he's got to deal with what Bishop had to do when he was coming up and all these starting goaltenders. Not too many of them just jumped right in and grabbed the net and stayed in the net."

Who's hot: Anderson is 7-3-2 during his current stretch of consecutive starts. … Boyle has scored goals in the past two games and is playing in his 499th NHL game Thursday.

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