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Lightning's Barberio excited at chance to enter lineup

by Corey Long / NHL.com

TAMPA -- All signs point to Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mark Barberio replacing Matthew Carle in the lineup for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers at Amalie Arena on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

It would be Barberio's first game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season. He played in two playoff games for the Lightning last season and had six penalty minutes with a minus-2 rating. The Lightning hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series after a 6-5 win in Game 3 on Wednesday.

"I'm pretty pumped about it," Barberio said. "I've been itching to play. I've just been waiting, putting time in the gym and I'm just excited to get on the ice."

Carle did not practice Friday. He left Game 3 in the first period after a collision with Rangers center Derek Stepan.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper would not confirm Barberio as the replacement in the lineup.

"I told 21 guys they were playing," Cooper said. "[Barberio] is one of the guys I told."

Barberio hasn't played since the regular-season finale against the Boston Bruins on April 11. Cooper, however, said he isn't worried about someone stepping in after a long layoff because all the players on the roster should be prepared for the opportunity to play.

"This is where you find out if guys are pros or not," Cooper said. "It's a game we all love to play. But in some respects it's also your job and these guys are expected to, when your name is called, come in and do the best you can. Keep yourself in shape and our staff does a great job with players that haven't been in the starting lineup but potentially could come in. So if is Barberio to [Jonathan] Drouin, [Vladislav] Namestnikov, [Jonathan] Marchessault and down the list. Those guys are ready to play at any time. And when you're called you have to come in and do the best you can."

Barberio had one goal and six assists in 52 regular-season games, and averaged 16:46 of ice time per game.

His current 16-game stretch is the longest Barberio has gone without playing this season, but he says it hasn't been hard to stay mentally checked in during the playoffs.

"It's important that when you're watching the game that you stay focused on what your job is," Barberio said. "I make sure to watch the defense and the systems we're trying to use. I practice hard and try to stay sharp on the ice so that I'm ready to go. Obviously the intensity picks up in the playoffs but I've skated hard in practice and I have fresh legs."

The Lightning likely will use 11 forwards and seven defensemen because they've had more success with that alignment. They are 6-1 in the playoffs with that alignment and 4-5 with the traditional look of 12 forwards and six defensemen.

Defenseman Victor Hedman said he can't explain the reason for the success with one roster makeup vs. another.

"I wish I had an answer to that; it's a tough one," Hedman said. "We were down to six defensemen [in Game 3] when we were down 2-0 and then we scored four straight. For us it's just making sure we get the job done. It doesn't really matter who is on the ice. If we have six defensemen on the ice [Friday] we have to make sure to do short shifts and at the same time be aggressive."

Defenseman Anton Stralman also said he didn't know why the Lightning have been better with seven defensemen in the lineup but praised Barberio for his patience and professionalism.

"I played with him quite a bit this year and he's a very good, mobile defenseman," Stralman said. "He moves very well on the ice. It's obviously tough when you haven't played for a little while. He's busted his [butt] out there every day to stay in shape and doing all the right things. I'm sure he'll be ready if he's going in."

Here are the projected lineups:

RANGERS

Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Kevin Hayes

Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Jesper Fast

Carl Hagelin - Dominic Moore - Martin St. Louis

Tanner Glass - James Sheppard - J.T. Miller

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Marc Staal - Dan Boyle

Keith Yandle - Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

Cam Talbot

Scratched: Ryan Bourque, Matt Hunwick, Chris Summers

Injured: Mats Zuccarello (upper body)

LIGHTNING

Alex Killorn - Valtteri Filppula - Steven Stamkos

Nikita Kucherov - Tyler Johnson - Ondrej Palat

Brian Boyle - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan

J.T. Brown - Brenden Morrow

Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman

Braydon Coburn - Jason Garrison

Nikita Nesterov - Andrej Sustr

Mark Barberio

Ben Bishop

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Scratched: Jonathan Drouin, Jonathan Marchessault, Vladislav Namestnikov

Injured: Matthew Carle (undisclosed)

Status Report: Carle was ruled out by Cooper after the morning skate Friday. 

Who's Hot: Palat had two goals and an assist in Game 3 and has four goals and three assists in the past four games. ... Killorn had a goal and an assist in Game 3 and has three goals and two assists in the past two games.

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