Kucherov, Palat to return tonight for Lightning vs. Canadiens
The Lightning (17-15-3) return to the ice tonight after the four-game Christmas break and play host to the division leading Canadiens (21-9-4).
Also returning are RW Nikita Kucherov, who leads the team in goals with 13 and points with 30, and LW Ondrej Palat.
While the two should give the team a lift, coach Jon Cooper said it’s unfair to expect both to be at 100 percent given the layoff because of their respective injuries.
The Lightning called up center Matthew Peca, who will make his NHL debut tonight while centering the fourth line. Peca gives the team speed, which, Cooper said, will help against the Canadiens.
Andrei Vasilevskiy will be in goal tonight for the Lightning.
The Lightning begin a five-game homestand three points behind the Bruins for third place in the division and seven points out of the wild card.
Cooper said after the morning skate that it’s too early in the season to look at the standings. He also said you can beat yourself up by worrying about the standings, since all any team can control is how it plays.
Cooper said the goal is to win each game and be a better team after that game than it was beforehand.
The Lightning has lost its last five games against the Canadiens, including 3-1 on Oct. 27 in Montreal. The Canadiens are just 6-6-2 on the road this season.
“We owe them a few here, because they’ve taken us out the last few games,” Cooper said after Tuesday’s practice, “so we’ll be ready for them.”