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Kucherov to play first NHL game for Lightning

by Lonnie Herman

TAMPA -- For the Tampa Bay Lightning, coming off a four-game West Coast road swing where they went 0-3-1, there very well may be no place like home. At least, they hope so.

Monday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum the Lightning will met the New York Rangers, a team they have lost three straight games to by a combined score of 12-4.

To make matters that much more difficult, New York has won six of its last nine games and has the most road wins in the Eastern Conference with eight.

With Steven Stamkos out with a broken tibia and Ryan Malone nursing a lower-body injury, the Lightning have reached down to their American Hockey League affiliate in Syracuse and promoted forward Nikita Kucherov, a second-round selection (No. 58) in the 2011 NHL Draft. This game will mark Kucherov's NHL debut after only 17 games with Syracuse.

"He's another young gun," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "Is it ideal that he's playing now after only 20 plus games in the American Hockey League? It is not. On the other side of the coin, he has probably earned the stripes a little quicker than most other guys and we'll see what he brings. He is one of these guys that have the uncanny ability to put the puck in the net."

That is certainly a talent that can come in handy right now for the Lightning, who have scored three goals in their last three games. Kucherov is leading Syracuse in both goals (13) and points (24).

On the positive side for Tampa Bay, Ben Bishop is expected to get the start in net for the Lightning. He is 3-0-0 against the Rangers with a 1.26 goals-against average.

Taylor Pyatt, who has missed seven games with a concussion, skated with the Rangers on Monday morning and is getting closer to rejoining the lineup.

The Lightning will honor Martin St. Louis prior to the game for appearing in his 1,000th career NHL game.

Here are Monday's projected lineups:


Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Mats Zuccarello

Rick Nash - Brad Richards - Ryan Callahan

Carl Hagelin - Derick Brassard - Benoit Pouliot

Dominic Moore - Brian Boyle - Derek Dorsett

Dan Girardi - Ryan McDonagh

Anton Stralman - Marc Staal

Michael Del Zotto - John Moore

Henrik Lundqvist

Cam Talbot

Scratched: J.T. Miller, Justin Falk

Injured: Taylor Pyatt (concussion)


Martin St. LouisValtteri FilppulaJ.T. Brown

Teddy PurcellAlex KillornNikita Kucherov

Ondrej PalatTyler JohnsonRichard Panik

Pierre-Cedric LabrieNate ThompsonB.J. Crombeen

Eric BrewerMark Barberio

Matthew CarleVictor Hedman

Sami SaloAndrej Sustr

Ben Bishop

Anders Lindback

Scratched: Dmitry Korobov

Injured: Ryan Malone (lower body), Radko Gudas (upper body), Keith Aulie (upper body), Steven Stamkos (broken right tibia)

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