The Lightning and Penguins meet again for the second time in nine days.
The Penguins (5-2-1) have not lost since losing a 5-4 shootout at Amalie Arena.
The Lightning (6-1-1) is playing better defensively, according to coach Jon Cooper, since allowing 43 shots that night.
But, he added, the Penguins three-game winning streak since leaving Tampa is an indication that the defending Stanley Cup champions are playing well, too.
RW Nikita Kucherov participated in the optional morning skate after missing Friday’s practice for body maintenance. D Victor Hedman skated but did so in sweats, which might be an indication he was testing something to see if he can play tonight. C Cedric Paquette, who did not play Thursday at Columbus, did not practice Friday or skate this morning,
When asked if he expects changes tonight to the lineup, Cooper said, “Hard to say. I can say that for sure. Goaltender is the same, after that we’ll have to make game-time decisions, because some guys are nicked up.”
The goaltender, of course, is Andrei Vasilevskiy, who stopped all 43 shots and pitched a shutout Thursday against the Blue Jackets. He leads the NHL in wins with six.
The Lightning return home tonight to face the Penguins for the second time in two weeks.
They last met Oct. 12, and it was an entertaining night at Amalie Arena with nearly 80 shots on goal and end-to-end action that ended in a 5-4 Lightning win.
Lightning associate coach Rick Bowness was asked after Friday’s practice if he expects the pace of play tonight to be not quite as fast.
“I think both sides would, but you have two very highly talented teams, lots of skill, lots of speed. That’s a lot easier said than done,” Bowness said. “Both teams are effective on the rush. Usually when you’re effective on the rush and you go down and create a chance, if you don’t get the retrieval, you’re giving up a chance the other way. That’s how the teams are built. We want to tighten it up a little bit, but you got to let your players go, too, and when that happens, you get a game like that.”
The Lightning (6-1-1) received two goals from Slater Koekkoek, the first two of his career, and one each from Victor Hedman, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. It was the first goal of the season for Stamkos.
"I think the one time, obviously it rose awareness for it, but at the same time, we were also able to get something from there, to be put in positions already speaking with the police chief, formulating a plan and having an action plan," Brown said. "That was enough. And who knows if we weren't in that situation, who knows what would have happened? I'm thankful for the organization and the support that they gave me."
Brown stressed that he got a lot of support from the Lightning, from ownership on down to help put him in situations to help. Brooks, known for his many philanthropic efforts in the Tampa Bay community, offered to meet up with Brown, the two talking in his Amalie Arena office last week. …
J.T. Brown plans to do more in the community to create awareness and understanding for key issues of police brutality and racial inequality.
Lightning wing J.T. Brown will no longer be raising his first as a silent protest during the national anthem.
But Brown, 27, one of about 30 black players in the NHL, plans to do more in the community to create awareness and understanding for key issues of police brutality and racial inequality. Brown made the announcement in a lengthy Twitter statement Wednesday afternoon.
"I understand this issue cannot be resolved overnight, nor can i do it alone" Brown said. "I am done raising my fist during the national anthem. I am now using this support, opportunity and platform to call out everyone who agreed or disagreed with me to help by sharing suggestions, continuing respectful conversations and looking for ways that they too can make a difference in the community." …
Nikita Kucherov joined Steve Yzerman, Mario Lemieux and Keith Tkachuk as the only players in the last 30 years to score a goal in each of his team's first six games.
If anyone knows what it is like to be as hot as Nikita Kucherov is right now, it's Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.
Kucherov, 24, joined Yzerman, Mario Lemieux and Keith Tkachuk as the only players in the last 30 years to score a goal in each of his team's first six games. Kucherov has seven, including two in Monday's 3-2 win over Detroit. Yzerman racked up six in the first six games of the 1988-89 season, when he finished with a career-high 65.
What's that like?
"Honestly, I don't remember much," Yzerman said with a chuckle. "It was a long time ago."
But Yzerman has enjoyed watching Kucherov's record run, which has sparked the Lightning's 5-1 start heading into Tuesday's game in New Jersey.
"He's a really fun, exciting player to watch," Yzerman said. "He's got some special skills. From a team's perspective, he's good in all facets of the game, both ends of the rink. He's equally great as a goal scorer and playmaker. And he's playing hard. He's very motivated, very competitive. He's been a significant factor in every game."
Yzerman isn't surprised, having noticed Kucherov's drive ever since the Russian was selected in the second round of the 2011 NHL Draft. …
Nikita Kucherov is the first player in Lightning history to score a goal in each of the first five games.
The slick, sling-shot type wrist shot Nikita Kucherov used for his first goal Monday night may have stunned many at Little Caesar's Arena.
But Kucherov, 24, has practiced it countless times. There were his 5-to-6 day a week individual workouts this summer at Brandon's Ice Sports Forum, starting in late June. Then the 40-goal scorer, never satisfied, would come home and shoot some more, thanks to the synthetic ice sheet he installed in his two-car garage.
"Just something different," Kucherov said.
It's sparked something special. Kucherov has become one of just four players in the last 30 years to score a goal in each of his first six games. The others include Hall of Famers like Steve Yzerman and Mario Lemieux. Not too shabby.
Kucherov has scored in a variety of ways in his record run, seven goals overall. He's incorporated a lost art — the backhand shot — which the Lightning wing had used for two highlight-reel goals last week.
"Not a lot of guys have the confidence to try it," Lightning associate coach Rick Bowness said. "A lot of guys don't have the skill level. But (Kucherov) does." …
Luke Witkowski (28) played his first 55 NHL games with the Lightning, until signing a two-year $1.5 million deal with Detroit in the summer.
Defenseman Luke Witkowski couldn't help but take a peek at the Lightning's morning skate Monday at the brand-new Little Caesar's Arena.
Witkowski, 27, had been with the Tampa Bay organization since getting drafted in the sixth round in 2008. He played his first 55 NHL games with the Lightning, until signing a two-year $1.5 million deal with Detroit in the summer.
"It's nice to see some of the guys," Witkowski said. "And now play against them."
Witkowski is playing a familiar role, a 6-foot-2 defenseman who also spends time up front at forward, like he did in Tampa Bay. He provides physicality and toughness, something Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill remembered from their days together at Western Michigan.
For Witkowski, who grew up in Holland, Mich, signing with Detroit was the perfect fit.
"It's a lifelong dream," Witkowski said. "But when it actually happens, it's something special."
It's been a big summer for Witkowski, who married long-time girlfriend Erin in early September near Traverse City. "I fished on my wedding day," he said.
The Lightning (3-1) finish off this three-game homestand tonight against the Blues (4-1).
G Andrei Vasilevskiy will make his fifth straight start to open the season. His numbers are down ( 3.75 goals against average and a .900 save percentage) but much of that has to do with the barrage of shots he’s faced. His teammates haven’t exactly made life easy for him.
Coach Jon Cooper said Vasy has “probably” been the best player for the Lightning through the first four games.
The only lineup change for tonight would be if C Cedric Paquette returns. He missed Thursday’s win against the Penguins with an undisclosed injury. Cooper said he’s hoping Paquette plays.
C Steven Stamkos, D Victor Hedman and D Slater Koekkoek scored their first goals of the season in Thurrsday’s win. Koakkoak scored twice – the first two of his NHL career.
LW Alex Killorn had a career-high four assists.
The Lightning will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the inaugural team. Coach Terry Crisp and many of the former players are on hand for the festivities.
It is the fourth straight start to open the season for Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.
G Andrei Vasilevskiy will be in goal tonight when the Lightning (2-1-0) play the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins (2-1-1) at Amalie Arena.
It is the fourth straight start to open the season for the Lightning's top goalie.
It will also be a reunion for Lightning LW Chris Kunitz, who signed with the Lightning over the summer after nine years with the Penguins, where he was a member of three Cup-winning teams.
“I don’t really know what to expect other than outside of going out there and playing the game,” Kunitz said after the morning skate. “The longer you play the more friends you have out there that kind of go to different teams, and this time you’re the one who’s leaving.”
Kunitz said he looked to see when his new team would play his old when he signed with the Lightning.
“I’m sure he circled the game,” C Steven Stamkos said.
Chris Kunitz felt the Lightning gave him the best chance to win another Stanley Cup.
Veteran wing Chris Kunitz doesn't think there will be any awkwardness tonight when he faces the Penguins for the first time since joining the Lightning this summer.
Kunitz, 38, already got those feelings out of the way in early September when, after evacuating Florida due to Hurricane Irma, he skated with former Penguins teammates in Pittsburgh.
"I felt a little out of place," he said. "That was the awkward stage of being in blue and them all being in Pittsburgh colors."
Kunitz had special memories in his nine years in Pittsburgh, including three Stanley Cups. All three of his children - Zach (8), Payton (6) and Aubrey (3) - were born in the city. So the biggest adjustment Kunitz has dealt with has come off the ice settling into Tampa.
"We fell in love with the city, and met some really nice people," Kunitz said.
Kunitz knew at the end of last season he'd likely have to move on, a message sent during the exit meetings. "They told us to test the market," he said. "There wasn't much back and forth." …
Andrei Vasilevskiy faced a combined 84 shots in back-to-back games Friday and Saturday against the Panthers.
Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy had a busy enough weekend, facing 84 combined shots in back-to-back games Friday and Saturday.
But the 23-year-old Russian will be back in net tonight as Tampa Bay hosts the Capitals and historically-hot Alex Ovechkin, who has seven goals in two games. Coach Jon Cooper said it was the plan all along for Vasilevskiy to play the first three.
It'll require a team effort to slow down Ovechkin, the greatest scorer of this generation.
"Ovechkin is a a shooter - they're going to shoot," Cooper said. "You have to limit where they shoot from, try to make their angles as bad as possible to limit their time and space. Those types of players are going to get their shots. The problem is when they're hot, which is right now, the puck has eyes for them. How much can you stop that? It's tough. I'm pretty sure their last two opponents - Ottawa and Montreal - they were trying to stop him as well."
Though it's not official, it appears the Lightning could go with seven defensemen in the lineup tonight. Veteran wing Ryan Callahan was moved to the fourth line with Cedric Paquette and Chris Kunitz, potentially to match up with Ovechkin. …
But Brown, 27, received support from players around the league and, more importantly, in the Lightning dressing room. Veteran wing Ryan Callahan spoke for the team.
"The big thing is, we've got 25 different guys in here, everyone is going to have a different opinion, come from a different background and upbringing," Callahan said. "Whether we agree or disagree with what (Brown) is doing, as a team we support him. We support (Brown) on and off the ice. Our biggest thing is we've got his back."
Brown said Sunday that he received racist comments and death threats on social media after deciding to raise his right fist during the anthem at Saturday's 5-4 loss to the Panthers in Sunrise. Brown, one of around 30 black players in the NHL, was the first player in the league to do a silent protest, in an attempt to raise awareness for racial inequality and police brutality. …
When Mikhail Sergachev tried to carry the puck out from behind his own net early in Friday's second period, he tried to shake Florida's Colton Sceviour with a familiar move.
"In juniors, I'd slow down, he'd slow down and then I'd start skating," Sergachev said. "(Scevior) didn't slow down."
Scevior stripped the puck from Sergachev for a great scoring chance, drawing a hooking penalty from the 19-year-old rookie. "Those are mistakes that 30 year-olds make," coach Jon Cooper said.
But it was a mistake Sergachev learned from, having an otherwise impressive Lightning debut. He racked up a team-high matching four shots in 16 minutes of ice time. The fact Sergachev felt so comfortable is that the Lightning coaches encouraged him to play his game.
"(Cooper) talked to me and said, 'We don't care if you make mistakes, it's just if you work hard or not,'' Sergachev said. "I'm not afraid to make mistakes, because if you are, you make a lot of them. I just try to play my game and if I have a chance to create something, I try to." …
Jake Dotchin, left, was limited to just one exhibition game due to an unspecified team rule violation.
Lightning defenseman Jake Dotchin has been paired with Victor Hedman all week, ever since the final preseason game.
The two were partners for the second half of last season, when Dotchin helped balance out the top-four.
That's what makes Dotchin, 23, a surprise scratch for Friday's opener against the Panthers at Amalie Arena. Dotchin was limited to just one exhibition game due to an unspecified team rule violation.
Coach Jon Cooper would only say that with eight defensemen, someone has to sit. J.T. Brown and Slater Koekkoek are the other expected healthy scratches. But this could also mean, if the Lightning is indeed shopping a defenseman (like Andrej Sustr), it's better to play him. So it'll be interesting to see which scouts are in the stands tonight.
"You have 23 guys, 20 get to play," Cooper said. "You've probably heard this answer - it's monotonous - but not everyone is going to play every single night. When your name is called, you've just got to be ready to help us win and that's it."
With Dotchin out, veteran Dan Girardi - making his Lightning debut - is paired with Hedman. Anton Stralman is still with rookie Mikhail Sergachev, Sustr with Braydon Coburn. …