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Cooper wants goal-starved Lightning to stick with it

by Lonnie Herman

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning open a two-game homestand Thursday when the Ottawa Senators visit Tampa Bay Times Forum, and if the visitors are bringing any gifts, the Lightning hope it is in the form of a few scoring opportunities.

Tampa Bay has been shut out in consecutive games and three times in five games. Excluding an empty-net goal by Tyler Johnson against the Philadelphia Flyers on Nov. 27, the Lightning are scoreless in 135 minutes. Add to this the power play, which still ranks eighth in the NHL but is 4-for-46 in the past 15 games, and it is clear that the Lightning are enduring a significant power outage.

"Hopefully we can turn that around tonight," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "We're going to have to do that soon because there are too many teams that have closed the gap and are starting to pass us now.

"The problem is when you are pressing, you try to do things out of your comfort zone and out of our natural habits thinking that may work but it really doesn't. You just have to stick with the program and the goals will come."

Sticking to the program is one thing, but Cooper is taking no chances and plans a significant shakeup to his lines for Thursday in an all-out effort to end the Lightning's scoring drought.

But Tampa Bay's scoring woes are no comfort to Ottawa coach Paul MacLean.

"They have Martin St. Louis and Teddy Purcell," MacLean said. "I know that [Steven] Stamkos is out, but they have scored lots of goals this year. So, they are going through a little bit of a struggle and we'd like to keep them struggling for sure, but when you are the visiting coach coming in and the team hasn't scored in a while, that's when you should be scared to death."

Craig Anderson was hit with a puck in the morning skate and headed for the bench, but the decision to start Robin Lehner in goal for the Senators had been made long before that occurred.

"I think Anderson got dinged up a couple of times, but for the most part we just feel that Robin gives us a better chance to win," MacLean said.

Here are the projected lines for the Senators and Lightning:


Clarke MacArthur - Jason Spezza - Mika Zibanejad

Mike Hoffman - Kyle Turris - Bobby Ryan

Milan Michalek - Zack Smith - Chris Neil

Cory Conacher - Colin Greening - Erik Condra

Marc Methot - Erik Karlsson

Chris Phillips - Joe Corvo

Patrick Wiercioch - Jared Cowen

Robin Lehner

Craig Anderson

Scratched: Eric Gryba, Matt Kassian


Nikita KucherovValtteri FilppulaAlex Killorn

Marin St. Louis – Tyler JohnsonOndrej Palat

Teddy PurcellNate ThompsonJ.T. Brown

Dana TyrellB.J. Crombeen

Mark BarberioMatthew Carle

Sami SaloVictor Hedman

Keith AulieAndrej Sustr

Matt Taormina

Ben Bishop

Anders Lindback

Scratched: Richard Panik

Injured: Ryan Malone (lower body), Pierre-Cedric Labrie (upper body) Radko Gudas (upper body), Eric Brewer (lower body)

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