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Namestnikov to make NHL debut for Lightning

by Lonnie Herman

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning had an optional skate Saturday morning with 10 players participating. But don't think that coach Jon Cooper's casual attitude means he is taking the Detroit Red Wings lightly.

"This is paramount for us, to get points before we go into the break," Cooper said. "It's a division opponent, it's someone we are battling for a playoff spot. I'm not classifying this as a Game 7; we'll still be in the playoff hunt when we return from the break. But stopping the bleeding now would be really nice."

And there has been some bleeding, as the Lightning are on a 1-4-0 run and hold a slim one-point edge over the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs for second place in the Atlantic Division. Saturday's opponent, the Red Wings, sits five points back.

"In regard to the break, there are a lot of teams in this League probably wishing this break never came, and there are a few teams in this League that are wishing it started a week ago," Cooper said. "And we are probably one of those teams."

With Valtteri Filppula sidelined with an ankle injury that is expected to sideline him at least three weeks and Ben Bishop day-to-day with an upper-body injury, the Lightning recalled forward Vladislav Namestnikov and goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis from the American Hockey League. Namestnikov will make his NHL debut Saturday.

"He is coming in here to do what he does," Cooper said of Namestnikov, who will skate with the same linemates he played alongside in the AHL, Nikita Kucherov and J.T. Brown. "He can play the game at a pretty high speed. We need a skilled centerman and Namestnikov is a skilled centerman. He deserves a spot."

Detroit is on a nice roll of late, going 6-2-2, and coach Mike Babcock doesn't plan any lineup changes from Thursday when the Red Wings defeated the Florida Panthers 3-1. But he is prepping to face Bishop in net.

"Bishop has been real hard on us all year long," Babcock said. "He hasn't given up much. He's a huge man and seems to play a quiet game and handles the puck well. That is a priority for us tonight."

But it is far from certain that Bishop will be in the net for Tampa Bay.

"That's hard to say," Cooper said when asked who was starting in goal for the Lightning. "This might be the first time in NHL history that you see three goalies in the warmup. The goalie situation has gone from day-to-day to hour-to-hour, so that is where we are at. In all seriousness, it'll be a game-time decision."

Here are the projected lineups for the Red Wings and Lightning:


Gustav NyquistHenrik ZetterbergJustin Abdelkader

Darren HelmPavel DatsyukDaniel Alfredsson

Tomas TatarRiley SheahanTomas Jurco

Joakim AnderssonLuke GlendeningDrew Miller

Jonathan EricssonNiklas Kronwall

Kyle QuinceyDanny DeKeyser

Brian LashoffBrendan Smith

Jimmy Howard

Jonas Gustavsson

Scratched: Patrick Eaves, Todd Bertuzzi, Daniel Cleary

Injured: Jakub Kindl (lower body), Stephen Weiss (groin), Johan Franzen (concussion)


Martin St. LouisTyler JohnsonOndrej Palat

J.T. BrownVladislav NamestnikovNikita Kucherov

Alex KillornNate ThompsonTeddy Purcell

B.J. CrombeenTom PyattRyan Malone

Eric BrewerRadko Gudas

Matthew CarleMark Barberio

Sami SaloVictor Hedman

Cedrick Desjardins

Kristers Gudlevskis

Scratched: Keith Aulie

Injured: Ben Bishop (upper body), Anders Lindback (lower body), Valtteri Filppula (right ankle), Steven Stamkos (right tibia).

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