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Lightning bracing for road challenge, Red Wings

by Adam Kimelman /



Best-of-7 series is tied 1-1

Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper knows there will be a special set of challenges when he arrives Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round series against the Detroit Red Wings (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, SN, FS-F, FS-D).

Cooper said Monday that he believes the Lightning are well-equipped to win on the road in the postseason.

"I think not having last change obviously it's a little more of a challenge for myself and the staff on the bench," he said. "You don't have that luxury of the whistle and getting guys out there you want. … But one of the luxuries we've had all year is being four lines deep, and if the matchup you don't entirely like is on the ice you're not as worried about it because we have a group of forwards that I think can play against any line."

The Lightning's 18 regular-season road wins were the fewest of any of the 16 teams to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but Cooper said he believes quality of wins tops quantity.

"If you look at some of the venues we won in, we won in San Jose, we won in Anaheim, we won in Montreal, we won in Detroit," Cooper said. "We won in some pretty hectic buildings against some pretty good teams."

They'll have to try to win again without defenseman Jason Garrison, who likely will not play because of an upper-body injury.

"He's probably not going to play Tuesday," Cooper said. "But then after that … now we're getting closer to game-time decision after that."

The Red Wings will get a player back in their lineup for Game 3 as forward Justin Abdelkader returns after missing the previous five games because of a hand injury. His return does more than add a big, talented scorer to the lineup; it allows coach Mike Babcock to spread the offense by playing Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk on different lines. At practice Monday, Datsyuk centered a line with Darren Helm and Tomas Tatar, while Zetterberg skated between Abdelkader and Gustav Nyquist.

"Putting [Zetterberg] back in the middle and giving him a winger, a guy that can skate and work for them, helps," Babcock said. "[Abdelkader] is a big body. He's an everyday-er. He competes hard like Helm."

Cooper knows how important Abdelkader is to the Red Wings' attack.

"He plays hard," Cooper said. "If you've got to pick their top three players this year I'd be shocked if he wasn't in it. He's a big part of their team. … He's somebody you have to be aware of when he's on the ice."

The Red Wings also will insert defenseman Brendan Smith into the lineup in place of rookie Alexey Marchenko. Smith had been a healthy scratch in the first two games of the series.

Regardless of who is on the ice for the Red Wings, the Lightning's focus will be on playing the same way regardless of the location of the game.

That's the biggest thing," Lightning forward Ryan Callahan said. "Playing the same way on the road that we did at home. … We do have to win one on the road to take the series. It starts with Game3 and that's all we're looking at and concentrating on."

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