Stamkos-Kucherov combo 'special to watch'
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov are two of the game's most gifted and skilled scorers.
So, naturally, when they're on the same line, it makes for must-see TV.
"It's awesome (to watch) from the bench," wing J.T. Brown said. "They're going back-and-forth, tap in goals. It's special to watch."
Stamkos and Kucherov put on a dazzling display in Monday's 4-0 win over the Islanders, their chemistry with linemate Vladislav Namestnikov growing by each game. Stamkos had two assists, Kucherov a goal and assist, including a couple crafty give-and-gos. Namestnikov scored, too. Stamkos (19 points) and Kucherov (18 points) are both in the top-five in the NHL in scoring heading into Tuesday's game against the Red Wings.
"The more we play together, we feel more comfortable and understand each other more and more," Kucherov said. "Being able to play with him, it's simple. I know where he's going to be. He's a great player, smart player, It's kind of fun."
Said Stamkos: "The skill set that 'Kuch possesses is impressive. For me, it's just about finding opening on the ice where he's going to put it. The same with (Namestnikov). Going back to last year, we had some good chemistry. Even games we haven't gotten on the scoreboard, we probably deserved to. (Monday) was one of those games we got rewarded."
That line's production has been a big boost for the Lightning (9-6-1), especially considering the slow starts for Tyler Johnson (eight points) and Ondrej Palat (six points). After a hot start, six goals in his first seven games, Alex Killorn has no goals in his past nine games, pointless in his past six.
So Tampa Bay has relied a lot on its top line, and top two scorers in Stamkos and Kucherov.
"They've kind of had it going on the last few games," coach Jon Cooper said. "They're elite scorers, playmakers, hockey sense, all those things. Don't forget about Namestnikov, he's contributing in there too. All those guys are just on the same wavelength. When they're going, it's a lot of fun."
GRIND LINE: The Lightning's fourth line of Brian Boyle-Cedric Paquette-J.T. Brown continues to provide a spark. Brown scored the game's first goal Monday, a breakaway set up by a great hustle play from Paquette. Brown also set the tone with a clean hit on Islanders captain John Tavares, holding his own with an ensuing fight with 6-foot-4 Scott Mayfield. "When things haven't been going well, more often than not you look to that line and they get the engine started," Cooper said. "And (Brown) has been a big part of that."
NUTS AND BOLTS: There was no morning skate today... D Anton Stralman (upper body) is expected to miss his second straight game, RW Jonathan Drouin (upper body) his seventh. G Ben Bishop will likely start against the Red Wings. G Andrei Vasilevskiy is off to a stellar start, going 4-1 with a 1.66 goals against average in his first six starts, including Monday's 34-save shutout. "Playing more, I feel more confidence," he said. With Stralman out, D Andrej Sustr (19 minutes, 14 seconds) and Nikita Nesterov (19:24) saw their ice time increase, among the several stepping up. Cooper said having the experience of playing without Stralman in the playoffs helps them this time. "It's not ideal to have Stralman out, he's a top defenseman for us," Cooper said. "But is' comforting to know the guys can step in pick it up."