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Lightning must 'rise to the occasion,' Cooper says

by Corey Masisak

CHICAGO -- Jon Cooper has not been in the NHL for long, but he's already earned a reputation for being one of the most forthcoming coaches in the League.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are facing elimination in Game 6 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks, and Cooper was asked if it is possible for his team to approach it like any other game, a standard sports cliché when someone faces a high-leverage situation.

"No chance. The Stanley Cup's in the building," Cooper said. "We know it's just not another game. We haven't treated those elimination games like that. This is much different than Game 1. You got to win or you go home. On the other side, you know what happens if they win.

"No, I don't like to sugarcoat anything. This is the reality of the business we're in. We need to rise to the occasion."

The Lightning trail the Blackhawks 3-2 in this best-of-7 series, and Chicago will have a chance to win the Cup at United Center on Monday (8 p.m., NBC, CBC, TVA Sports). It is the fourth time Tampa Bay has faced elimination in this postseason. Tampa Bay won Games 6 and 7 to rally from a 3-2 deficit against the Detroit Red Wings in an Eastern Conference First Round series and defeated the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Cooper said forward Nikita Kucherov, who missed most of Game 5 with an undisclosed injury, is probable for Game 6. He took part in the morning skate, and Kucherov said afterwards he will participate in pregame warm-ups before a final decision is made.

Beyond the status of Kucherov, the only other decision for Cooper to make is whether to dress 11 forwards and seven defenseman, which means bringing back defenseman Nikita Nesterov, or 12 and six and leaving forward Jonathan Drouin in the lineup for a second straight game.

Cooper isn't planning on going away from any of his other regulars.

"For the most part that's got it done for us," Cooper said. "No reason to change now. It's not a matter of, well, we're going to put a player in here, a player in there. It's, boys, you got us here, now you just got to get it done."

The Lightning have been held to 10 goals in five games in the Cup Final, including one in each of the three losses. Kucherov is their second-leading scorer in the playoffs with 22 points, and while leading scorer Tyler Johnson has deflected questions about a possible injury he has taken less faceoffs than normal.

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos does not have a goal in the series, but linemates Alex Killorn and Valtteri Filppula do.

"I don't think there are any surprises or anything that we already haven't seen before," Stamkos said. "We've been through a lot of situations this year and we've found a way to respond. Not much needs to be said. Everyone realizes the magnitude of this game."

Here are the projected lineups:


Alex Killorn - Valtteri Filppula - Steven Stamkos

Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov

J.T. Brown - Cedric Paquette - Brenden Morrow

Brian Boyle - Ryan Callahan

Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman

Braydon Coburn - Jason Garrison

Matthew Carle - Andrej Sustr

Nikita Nesterov

Ben Bishop

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Scratched: Mark Barberio, Jonathan Drouin, Jonathan Marchessault, Vladislav Namestnikov

Injured: none


Patrick SharpJonathan ToewsMarian Hossa

Brandon SaadBrad RichardsPatrick Kane

Kris VersteegAntoine VermetteTeuvo Teravainen

Andrew DesjardinsMarcus KrugerAndrew Shaw

Duncan KeithNiklas Hjalmarsson

Johnny OduyaTrevor van Riemsdyk

Kimmo TimonenBrent Seabrook

Corey Crawford

Scott Darling

Scratched: Bryan Bickell, Joakim Nordstrom, Daniel Carcillo, Kyle Cumiskey, David Rundblad, Antti Raanta, Ville Pokka, Phillip Danault, Ryan Hartman, Viktor Svedberg

Injured: Michal Rozsival (fractured left ankle)

Status report: Drouin said he will take part in warm-ups and a decision will be made afterward. He has played twice in this series. Nesterov has played in the other three games.

Who's hot: Bishop has been dealing with an undisclosed injury, but he has made 67 saves on 71 shots in his past two starts.

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