Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy gets the start tonight against the Senators, his second of the season.
Coach Jon Cooper said it's just part of the plan to get Vasilevskiy more playing time, and nothing to do with the performance of starter Ben Bishop, who has allowed 11 goals in three games, including four apiece in two.
"In the time I've been here, I don't think I've ever sat here and said, 'This goalie is playing this way' and I decide not to play him," Cooper said. "Over time the last couple years with Vasy, we've tried to slowly put him in. We're trying to get him minimum one game a week and this is the game."
Cooper said the Lightning's goaltending has been "great," noting how unlucky the team has been with bad bounces and deflections, including a weird carom off the zamboni door in Colorado's fourth goal Thursday. "I've never seen anything like this," Cooper said. "Look at three-quarters of the goals against us have touched us last before going into the net."
Cooper has said ideally Bishop would make 50-plus starts this season, Vasilevskiy around 30.
Guy Boucher said he's asked often, both by media members and people in the street, whether he's circled Saturday's game against the Lightning on his calendar.
Boucher, fired by Tampa Bay in 2013 after four seasons as head coach, is in his first year with Ottawa.
The simple answer? Not at all.
"Maybe it's the distance of the years, I'm very calm and almost cold about it," Boucher said Friday in a news conference in Ottawa. "I don't know how to explain it. It's been too long. I guess if it was last year, or two months ago, and it was all the people I worked with, all the players I had, but I only coached two players. That's it."
The only two Lightning players who have played for Boucher are captain Steven Stamkos and defenseman Victor Hedman. Boucher took over in 2010-11, GM Steve Yzerman's first head coaching hire. And the Lightning reached Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final in 2011, losing to eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston. Boucher was 97-78-20 overall. …
Slater Koekkoek was reassigned to AHL Syracuse on Wednesday.
D Slater Koekkoek was reassigned to AHL Syracuse on Wednesday for the purpose of getting him playing time after being a healthy scratch in the Lightning’s first three games.
“Yes, there’s no question,” coach Jon Cooper said. “Can’t have a young guy sitting up there in the stands waiting for his chance when he has opportunities to play games, so this should never be taking as a demotion because it’s not. It’s a free move to get somebody games. That’s what we want.”
Syracuse plays Friday at home against Utica and Saturday at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The Lightning begins a six-game road trip through the Northeast on Saturday night at Ottawa. That means Koekkoek will not be far from the team should the Lightning want him back.
To take Koekkoek’s spot on the roster, the Lightning recalled D Matt Taormina from Syracuse. Taormina played in 12 games with the Lightning over the past four seasons. He has played in 59 career NHL games.
“It was kind of a shock, but just going to come up and if they need me to go, I’ll be ready to play whatever they want me to play,” Taormina aid. “I’ve been here a while now so I know what to expect.”
Lightning owner Jeff Vinik chats with Jackie Dry of Brooksville after autographing her jersey during Fan Fest.
Since owner Jeff Vinik bought the Lightning in 2010, he's said his goal was to make it a "world class" organization.
And on Thursday, the Lightning received a significant validation in its growth, ranked the No. 1 franchise in all of sports in ESPN the Magazine's annual rankings. The rankings measure all 122 teams in the four major pro sports leagues based on categories that "matter most to fans." Tampa Bay was voted No. 1 in sports when it comes to owners and players showing appreciation to fans. Other factors include on-ice success, affordability of tickets, fan experience, front office (getting the most out of money you spend).
The Lightning was No. 3 last year, and No. 85 in 2009, the year before Vinik bought the team.
"That 100 percent starts at the top," coach Jon Cooper said of Vinik. "That's a heck of an accomplishment."
With the Lightning playing just two games in the next five days, this gives Slater Koekkoek an opportunity to get top minutes for the Crunch this weekend.
Defenseman Slater Koekkoek, a healthy scratch the first three games, was reassigned to AHL Syracuse Wednesday.
Matt Taormina has been called up, and is expected to be available for Thursday's game against the Avalanche.
This appears like a move to give Koekkoek a chance to play. Despite making his first opening night roster, the former first-round pick hasn't appeared in the last four games, including the preseason finale. Nikita Nesterov has been the sixth defenseman.
And with the Lightning playing just two games in the next five days, this gives Koekkoek an opportunity to get top minutes for the Crunch this weekend. Coach Jon Cooper had said today with the Lightning winning three straight to start the season, "there hasn't been much reason to change things up."
"We'll find a way to get guys in," Cooper said. "It's tough the beginning of the year, because we haven't had the back to backs. Not that you want back to backs. But we've played fairly well, actually we've played better than fairly well. There are a lot of games coming up on the road trip, five games in eight days, so I'd imagine our lineup will change." …
Brayden Point is the 27th player to score a shootout goal before his first NHL goal.
Joe Smith breaks down the start of the Lightning season and interviews rookie Brayden Point, who has had a whirlwind week since making his first opening night roster, in our latest Lightning Strikes! podcast.
It's been a whirlwind week for Brayden Point, who made the Lightning opening night roster despite entering his first full pro season.
With Tuesday's game on the line, the Lightning-Panthers showdown lasting until the sixth round of a shootout, coach Jon Cooper turned to rookie Brayden Point on the bench and told him it was his turn.
"I've watched him do it in practice," Cooper said. "So that was good enough for me."
As Point hopped over the boards, he smiled at linemate, veteran Valtteri Filppula, who smiled back, which calmed the 20-year-old down. Point used his trademark speed on the attempt, keeping goalie James Reimer on his heels.
"Coming in, you have an idea of a few moves you want to do," Point said. "You look at where the goale is, his feet, and decide."
Point used his quick release to beat Reimer below his glove, resulting in the game-winning goal of a 4-3 shootout victory. "Pretty cool," Point said."Obviously getting the opportunity is awesome."
It's been a whirlwind week for Point, who made the Lightning opening night roster despite entering his first full pro season. He picked up his first NHL point Saturday with an assist on the game-winner. Point collected that puck, planning to give it to his billett family (the Hudson's in Moose Jaw). He didn't, however, get this puck. …
Jonathan Marchessault, right, congratulates Colton Sceviour after Sceviour scored Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings.
When Jonathan Marchessault became an unrestricted free agent in July, the Lightning made a pitch to keep the forward.
In fact, Marchessault, 25, said Tampa Bay offered a similar two-year, one-way contract to what the Panthers did.
"It wasn't about money," he said.
It was about a chance to play. And Marchessault saw more potential in the Panthers, signing a two-year, $1.5 million deal. Marchessault might have been right, entering Tuesday's game at Amalie Arena as Florida's leading scorer (four points), while playing on a top line with future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr.
“I knew I was on a team (in Tampa Bay) that was hard to break into the lineup," Marchessault said. "They have such a good team and (the forwards) have been playing three years together. That was a big part of changing teams so I have a better opportunity.’’ …
Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek had a blast doing a Q&A with fans on Twitter during training camp. So we thought we'd give it a shot, tackling several topics with the 22-year-old.
Times: How did you get the name Slater? Koekkoek: My mom drove by "Slater Excavating," it was a gravel pit. She liked the name. Everyone always comes up to me and asked if my parents were "Saved by the Bell" fans. It was not that.
Times: So you're not a "Saved by the Bell" fan? Koekkoek: I loved Save by the Bell. It was one of my favorite shows before school. And Slater is my favorite character.
Times: Why did you pick No. 29? Koekkoek: Two times nine is 18. My birthday is Feb. 18, my mom's is May 18. A bunch of other stuff from my family has happened on the 18th. But Mr. (Ondrej) Palat took 18.
Times: Favorite TV show? Koekkoek: Lost. I just re-started Dexter though. I like that one too.
Times: Top movie? Koekkoek: Probably "The Dark Knight Rises."
Times: I know you have many superstitions. Any interesting ones? Koekkoek: I don't like saying any of them because then I have to switch them. A lot stuff, order of equipment. Everyone always laughs at me, but I have to nap with the curtain's open. I don't like darkness.
Times: You don't need a "night light" do you? Koekkoek: No, oh no.
Times: Favorite sport other than hockey? Koekkoek: Fishing. I love fishing, one of my favorites. Anytime I can go I try to go. I brought all my fishing gear.
Times: Most famous person you met? Koekkoek: I met (producer) Jerry Bruckheimer. At the time, I didn't really know who he was. But you see how many movies he makes, it's pretty cool.
Times: Band you'd like to be on stage with? Koekkoek: That's a tough one. I saw Dierk's Bentley this summer, I'd love to be on stage with him. But maybe AC/DC.
Times: Any musical talent? Koekkoek: I tried to learn guitar once but I gave up. I failed drums in grade 7 in school? I got moved to the concert bells.
Nikita Kucherov didn't know what to expect after missing training camp due to a contract holdout.
While Kucherov, 23, played in the World Cup of Hockey, Thursday's season opener against Detroit was his first game in nearly three weeks.
And to Kucherov, it showed. He was a plus-1 in 18:43 of ice time, with three shots on goal. Three attempts missed the net, including on a breakaway.
"I feel a little rusty," Kucherov said. "I didn't practice with this kind of speed, I didn't practice with this kind of players at home. It's been hard. I feel like my legs were heavy and my hands were bad. I wasn't happy with the way I played."
Kucherov had been working out in Russia during negotiations, not arriving in Tampa until Tuesday when he signed a three-year deal. After the long flight, which including a night layover in New York city following a delay, the time change took some getting used to. "Not fun," he said. But Kucherov said he felt better Saturday morning, which he hopes bodes well for tonight's game against New Jersey.
Coach Jon Cooper said he wanted to give backup goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy more of a split in net this season.
And it starts tonight, with Vasilevskiy starting against the Devils. Starter Ben Bishop played in Game 1, a 6-4 win over the Red Wings. Cooper has said it'd be ideal to have Bishop play around 50 games, Vasilevskiy 30.
Bishop has set a standard of starting 60 games per season, like he has the past three, but didn't seem bothered by the change.
"Obviously you want to play every game, but that's why (Cooper) gets paid the big bucks," Bishop said, smiling. "There's nothing wrong with a night off, especially when you've got a capable guy coming in. It's definitely not going to hurt taking an extra night's rest. You want to play them all. But in the big picture, when they're playing 80-90 games every year, they start to add up over the years. Obviously you're not going to be (ticked) off or anything if you don't get the nod. But you definitely want to play."
Cooper said Vasilevskiy would play in one, maybe two games in this season-opening four-game homestand. With only one back-to-back situation this month, both Bishop and Vasilevskiy have to share starts to stay sharp. …
Ryan Callahan is hopeful to be back around the start of November.
Judging by the way Ryan Callahan is skating, and shooting, he looks ready to get back into game action.
Take his "walk-off" shootout goal on goalie Ben Bishop near the end of Friday's practice.
"I got lucky on 'Bish,'" Callahan said, smiling.
But Callahan did take another step Friday in his recovery from June hip surgery, getting cleared for contact. Originally slated to return in mid-November, Callahan is hopeful to be back around the start of the month.
"There's obviously some stuff to get to where I need to be and contact is a big hurdle," Callahan said. "So we'll see how I feel after I went through it, and go from there."
Callahan has been skating for a month, saying his conditioning is fine. He said it's a matter of getting his confidence back engaging in battles, like he did Friday.
Coach Jon Cooper said he's comfortable carrying 12 healthy forwards on the roster, noting how often the team like's to go with 11 forwards, seven defensemen. …
With Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman signed to long-term contracts and Nikita Kucherov back thanks to a bridge deal, the status of Ben Bishop will be the biggest question throughout the season.
After coming so close the past couple of seasons, is this the year the Lightning finally wins its second Stanley Cup? All of the major players are back, so the organization will be satisfied with nothing less than a championship. Times beat reporter Joe Smith and sports columnist Tom Jones preview the coming season with our latest Lightning Strikes! podcast.
Brayden Point, 20, makes his NHL debut tonight against the Red Wings.
Lightning forward Brayden Point kept seeing on Twitter Wednesday night the details of the remarkable debut of Maple Leafs No. 1 pick Auston Matthews, who scored four goals in his first game.
"That was the line in the room today, 'The standard has been set,'" coach Jon Cooper quipped. "Got to chase that one down."
Point, 20, making his NHL debut tonight against the Red Wings, isn't shooting for that one.
"I wouldn't hold my breath for that," Point said, smiling. "Just try to have a good game, have fun and soak it all in."
Point's parents, Janice and and Grant, and brother Kade, 13, arrived from Calgary Wednesday night, the family having dinner at Jackson's. Point said he initially had trouble falling asleep in anticipation of the night. Cooper's advice to Point: be yourself.
"Ultimately, you made it, you've got hockey sense, you can skate, you know how to play," Cooper said. "Don't ever lose your competitive edge, because that's one of the things for undersized guys right now, it's pushing you over the top."
Point, a third-round pick in 2014, will slot in on the third line with Valtteri Filppula and Vladislav Namestnikov. …
Ben Bishop will start tonight's season opener against the Red Wings.
As expected, goalie Ben Bishop will start tonight's season opener against the Red Wings.
He's the team's unquestioned No. 1 goalie, and will get a lion's share of the starts.
But this season, backup Andrei Vasilevskiy is likely to get a bigger chunk.
Coach Jon Cooper said today in an ideal world, Bishop could get around 50 starts, and Vasilevskiy 30. "If you could map it up it'd be unreal," Cooper said.
This accomplishes two things. It allows Bishop to remain fresh and healthy for what the Lightning hopes is a long playoff run. And it allows Vasilevskiy to stay sharp and maintain his development as a No. 1 in waiting.
Backups typically play in back-to-back situations, but there is only one of those in the first month of the season. Bishop said he's set a standard to start 60 games, which he has the past three seasons. But if everything goes as planned for Tampa Bay, Bishop might miss that mark this year.
"With every year, Vasy has gotten better and better and better," Cooper said. "Just got to keep getting these guys more games. Let's be honest, he's a big part of our team today and in the future."