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Nikita Kucherov in opening night lineup for Lightning

Forward will play against Red Wings two days after signing contract

by Corey Long / NHL.com Correspondent

RED WINGS (0-0-0) at LIGHTNING (0-0-0)

7:30 p.m. ET; SUN, FS-D

TAMPA -- Forward Nikita Kucherov will be in the lineup for the Tampa Bay Lightning when they play their season opener against the Detroit Red Wings at Amalie Arena on Thursday.

Kucherov, a restricted free agent, signed a three-year contract with an annual average value of $4.76 million on Tuesday, and coach Jon Cooper said there were no thoughts of not playing him despite missing training camp because he played for Team Russia in the World Cup of Hockey 2016.

ZKucherov was the Lightning's top scorer in 2015-16 with 66 points (30 goals).

Kucherov will be on a line with Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn. He had five goals and three assists on that same line in the Eastern Conference First Round series against the Red Wings last season. The Lightning won that series in five games.

The Red Wings will have numerous changes from taht playoff series. Forwards Frans Nielsen and Thomas Vanek, signed as free agent on July 1, should give Detroit more speed and scoring depth.

Coach Jeff Blashill said the Red Wings are getting away from the methodical approach they've been known for in recent years.

"I think we're transitioning to a faster approach up the ice," Blashill said. "We want to make sure that we're basically good in two areas, our relentless pressure and utilizing our speed and beating people up the ice."

One player who won't be with the Red Wings is center Pavel Datsyuk, who is playing in Russia. Detroit is counting on Nielsen, who signed a six-year deal with an annual average value of $5.25 million, to fill the void. He had 20 goals and 52 points in 81 games for the New York Islanders last season.

"You can't replace a guy like [Datsyuk], but they did a heck of a job [bringing in] Nielsen," Cooper said. "I think he's one of the most underrated players in this league. If anybody watched the World Cup they saw he was outstanding there. They have some veterans. [Drew] Miller is back and he missed the whole year. They have changed their flow. They have thrown a sniper in there with Vanek. They have [Dylan] Larkin, who is a year older and a year wiser."

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said that despite the personnel changes he expects Detroit to continue to be a significant challenge.

"They brought in some veteran players that know how to win," Stamkos said. "They got a couple of younger faces in there that we don't know about but they are a tough team. We know what to expect. It's going to be a tough test and we are going to treat it that way."

Petr Mrazek will start in goal for the Red Wings. 2016 Vezina Trophy finalist Ben Bishop will start for the Lightning.

Video: TOR@DET: Mrazek stops Nylander from point-blank range

 
Red Wings projected lineup

Tomas Tatar - Frans Nielsen - Henrik Zetterberg
Justin Abdelkader - Shane Larkin - Riley Sheahan
Gustav Nyquist - Darren Helm - Thomas Vanek
Steve Ott - Luke Glendening - Drew Miller

Danny DeKeyser - Alexey Marchenko
Brendan Smith - Mike Green
Jonathan Ericsson - Xavier Ouellet

Petr Mrazek
Jimmy Howard

Scratched: Andreas Athanasiou, Ryan Sproul

Injured: Niklas Kronwall (knee)

 
Lightning projected lineup

Ondrej Palat - Steven Stamkos - Jonathan Drouin
Alex Killorn - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov
Vladislav Namestnikov - Valtteri Filppula - Brayden Point
Cedric Paquette - Brian Boyle - J.T. Brown

Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman
Jason Garrison - Andrej Sustr
Nikita Nesterov - Braydon Coburn

Ben Bishop
Andrei Vasilevskiy

Scratched: Slater Koekkoek

Injured: Ryan Callahan (hip surgery)

 
Status Report

Kronwall skated with the team this morning after taking Wednesday off. ... Blashill said the Nyquist-Helm-Vanek line is a good combination of skill sets. "If that line works hard on the track and get after the puck it can be a really good line," Blashill said. ... Cooper said he spoke to Point yesterday about making the opening-day lineup and continuing to play to his strengths. "First he has to overcome the emotions of making the lineup but ultimately hockey is hockey," Cooper said. "One thing I told him was don't ever lose your competitive edge, because that's what's gotten his this far." ...Cooper said he's hopeful Callahan will return in early November.

 
Who's Hot

Tatar scored three goals for Team Europe at the World Cup. ... Stamkos had a goal and an assist to help Team Canada win the tournament.

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