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Cooper agrees with Tortorella on line shuffling: ‘If it works, it works’

By Joe Smith
Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella yells while watching from the bench with his team against the Tampa Bay Lightning during second period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Friday evening. (Dirk Shadd, Times)

When former Lightning coach John Tortorella brought some needed levity to talk of line combinations a few weeks ago, it sparked some attention around the league.

"It's all bull—-," Tortorella told media in Columbus, where he's the coach. "I get a kick out of us coaches, we talk about this, that and the other thing. 'This is what I'm looking for.' It's a bunch of bull—-. We try things, and if it works, it works."

And after current Lightning coach Jon Cooper's line shuffling sparked Saturday's win over San Jose, he agreed with Tortorella's assessment. To a point.

"It's a little mix," Cooper said. "'Torts is right in the sense that, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it,'" Cooper said. "And when it goes stale, it goes stale. As a coach, you have to have a feel for what guys can work with each other, because not everybody does. But when there's a time where things have to change, you have to have players understand, 'We're not changing because we don't want to win, we're changing because we want to put you in the best situation to succeed.' It happens regularly throughout the year, and this is one of those times for us."

Saturday marked the first significant line makeover for the Lightning, with the once-hot top line of Vladislav Namestnikov-Steven Stamkos-Nikita Kucherov split up. It worked. Tyler Johnson, moved up to the top line, scored twice to end a 15-game drought. Kucherov scored twice to snap a six-game skid.

The lines are expected to be very similar tonight, with Cory Conacher – who has scored in each of his two games this season – in the lineup. Cedric Paquette, coming off his one-game suspension, is back, with J.T. Brown out.

Conacher, who has spent a good chunk of the last two seasons, said he plans to stick it out, not worried about potential offers from overseas. Conacher, in the first of a two-year deal, had previously played in Switzerland.

"That's far on the backburner," Conacher said of returning to Europe. "I like being in North America, my wife likes being in North America. I just hope to continue to play well and prove I can play in this league."


G Andrei Vasilevskiy will start for the Lightning. D Jamie McBain, called up Monday, will be scratched. D Jake Dotchin continued to skate in a red jersey, but he's not ready yet. D Braydon Coburn didn't skate for the second straight day… You don't see this everyday – associate coach Rick Bowness sent players off the ice 15 minutes into the optional skate, not liking what he had seen. "Wasn't going well," center Brayden Point said…The Lightning remembers how the Islanders beat them pretty well in the teams' last meeting Nov. 18, a 5-3 New York win. "If we turn the puck over, it's going to be a long night," Cooper said. The Lightning had better puck management in Saturday's win, a big reason it played faster..


The NHL's Centennial Tour will be in Tampa from Thursday to Saturday from 1-7 p.m. in the silver lot, right next to Amalie Arena's Thunder Alley. The tour is to celebrate the 100 year history of the league, not to mention the 25-year anniversary of the Lightning. There will be a 53-foot mobile museum, as well as interactive activities. On Saturday from noon to 12:45 p.m., former Lightning forward Ruslan Fedotenko will sign autographs. The U.S. women's hockey team will sign Thursday from 5:30 p.m.-6.