Lineup goes through changes as Lightning prepares for Sabres
Lightning coach Jon Cooper made some lineup changes for tonight’s game with the Sabres.
Right wing Richard Panik is scratched from his line with center Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat, and Teddy Purcell takes his place. Tom Pyatt takes Purcell’s spot on the line with center Valtteri Filppula and left wing Alex Killorn, and defenseman Keith Aulie takes Andrej Sustr’s spot on a pairing with Eric Brewer.
As for moving Purcell to the Johnson, Palat line, Cooper said he believes that line had puck-possession problems in the first two games. “Teddy can create some space for some people.” Cooper also said he’s finding out Filppula and Purcell are too much of the same player. In other words, both are pass-first players. Pyatt might not have Purcell’s shot, but he has a nose for the net.
As for switching out Sustr for Aulie, who, like Pyatt, is getting in his first game, Cooper said it is just time for Aulie to play.
“He deserves to be in,” Cooper said. “Only six play and we thought Sustr has done a great job for us. He’s a right-handed shot, which we lack some of those on this team. But Aulie, he’s a good defenseman in this league. It’s not that these guys are far apart from each other. It’s maintenance. Guys got to get in and play, and I’m sure Keith has not been happy about being out of the first two games.”
Cooper also was clear this is not a step back for Sustr, who in two games averaged 19:20 of ice time, had zero points and was minus-1.
“Sustr has a really good mind for the game. He has good size. He’s hard to get around,” Cooper said. “The one thing that people find out about this game is that everybody knows how to play hockey. Not everyone knows how to play in the NHL, and that’s what he’s learning. He has all the skills and all the capability to do it. … He’s an every-day player on our team. He’s an almost every-dayer in our lineup, and in the not too distant future he’ll be an every-dayer in our lineup.”
Sustr said he understands why he is scratched.
“I’m a rookie in this league. There are eight of us (defensemen on the roster) so, obviously, there’s going to be some rotation going on that’s going to benefit the team in the long run. I’m not disappointed in anything. I’ll just take it as it is, and I’m just going to keep working hard.”
Same as Panik: “I don’t want to get sent down. I’m going to try to convince the head coach I am still part of this team and I will work hard in practices and after practices off ice and we will see what happens.”
Other stuff from the morning skate: As expected after his 37-save effort in the 3-2 shootout win over the Blackhawks, Ben Bishop gets the start in net. … Defenseman Mark Barberio also scratched tonight. … Pyatt said, “I didn’t really picture myself being a scratch this summer getting ready for the season. But you look at the depth we have, it’s a good thing for the team. It keeps everyone competitive, and I have to be sharp if I want to get in on a consistent basis.” … It wasn’t clear if Ryan Miller (groin) would start in net for the Sabres or if it would be Jhonas Enroth, who came off the ice first. Miller is 0-2 this season but with a 1.53 goals-against average and .962 save percentage.