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Lightning's Triplets line splits up — for now

From left, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and defenseman Victor Hedman celebrate a Johnson goal during last season's playoff series against the Canadiens.


From left, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and defenseman Victor Hedman celebrate a Johnson goal during last season's playoff series against the Canadiens.



Lightning coach Jon Cooper has said he's not married to the Triplets, or any line.

He's shown that by breaking up the Triplets (Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov) - the most productive line in the league last year - during three games this season, including the second period Sunday in Carolina.

And with that shakeup working well in a 4-3 win over the Hurricances, Cooper is sticking with it tonight against Detroit, splitting up the Triplets, who will start a game apart for the first time since October 2014,

"Like I've said before, it's '15-16, not '14-15," Cooper said. "Our identity as a team is coming together in a different way than it did last year, we're trying to find that chemistry and for a couple periods last game we found that, so we're going to roll with that."

Palat joined the top line with captain Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan, with Johnson and Kucherov with Alex Killorn. With the Triplets, thanks to increased attention from opposing teams, scoring just one even strength goal together in the first 13 games, splitting them up makes sense, even to them.

"It didn't work for us, got split up," Palat said. "Sometimes it's good to shake it up a little bit. As long as wer'e winning, I don't care."

Said Johnson: "Can't really go wrong with the lineup."

Johnson, who finally scored his first goal Sunday, is hoping it'll open the floodgates like it did last season, when he scored once in the first 12 games before racking up four in the next three (and 29 overall).

"When you get a goal, you get that confidence and it goes into the net, you feel that relief," Johnson said. "You feel some pressure getting off, kind of relax a little bit and once you relax, it's when you play your best hockey."

More from morning skate: G Ben Bishop will start in net, with G Jimmy Howard going for the Red Wings.. The Lightning will have the same defensive pairings, with D Nikita Nesterov scratched... Lines are Palat-Stamkos-Callahan/Killorn-Johnson-Kucherov/Boyle-Filppula-Condra/McGinn-Namestnikov-Brown.... Both LW Jonathan Drouin (lower body) and C Cedric Paquette (left ankle) participated in today's skate, but won't play tonight and are "questionable" for Thursday's game in Buffalo, Cooper said. Paquette, who will miss his fifth straight game, seems frustrated, and doesn't seem optimistic about returning soon. The biggest issue is the discomfort of wearing his skate with the cut on his ankle, result of a blocked shot Sept. 25. "I tried at least 100 (kinds) of padding," he said. "Can't move my foot in there." Drouin, who suffered a "tweak" Tuesday in St. Louis, said he's feeling a little better, but isn't sure if he'll be back on this trip. "I don't want to go 85-percent, 90 percent, I want to make sure it's 100 percent healed," Drouin said. "I don't want to be in three weeks having that problem again. Trying to take care of that here." Cooper and good buddy Jeff Blashill, the Red Wings coach, traded playful barbs in their pre-game press briefings. Blashill, when asked about defenseman Victor Hedman, quipped, "If he was better coached, he'd probably be a better player. Just kidding." When told of Blashill's remarks, Cooper smiled.  "I don't have to answer to people below me.




[Last modified: Tuesday, November 3, 2015 2:10pm]


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