TAMPA — G Peter Budaj started for the second time this season for the Lightning, facing the Ducks on Saturday and giving Andrei Vasilevskiy a rare night off.
"We’re slowly going to get (Budaj) in," coach Jon Cooper said last week. "He’s well aware of our plan. ‘Vasy’ is our No. 1. He’s going to get the lion’s share of the games. Budaj knew that coming in.
"It isn’t an ideal situation because everybody wants to play, but that’s why (Budaj is) a great teammate. He knows his role and what’s expected from him, and he knows to perform when his number is called. He understands it’s a tough role."
Vasilevskiy has won eight straight starts, one shy of tying John Grahame (2005) for the longest winning streak in team history. He could have used a night off after facing an NHL-high 345 shots entering Saturday and making an NHL-high 323 saves this season. He has allowed only seven goals in his past six starts.
"If you are going to sit here and give up two goals a night, every night, there’s a good chance you will be in Vegas in June," Cooper said, referring to the NHL’s annual awards night.
Sergachev gives offense a boost
The Lightning entered Saturday’s game with 27 points from its defenseman, third-highest among the 31 teams. The reason is Mikhail Sergachev.
The rookie (right) entered the game with 10 points and riding a four-game points streak. His four goals were tied for first among defensemen. His point total was fifth.
Cooper said Sergachev’s presence adds to the scoring punch from the second line on the power play. "To have Sergachev up there is something we haven’t had in the past," Cooper said.
He also said it takes pressure off Victor Hedman (one goal, six points) to provide the scoring punch among the defensemen.
"Now we’ve kind of got two guys who have that offensive jump and those instincts," Cooper said, "and it’s a benefit for us."
He shoots! He scores!
Weston Hermann, 11, who in two weeks will have his second surgery for a cancerous brain tumor, participated in the morning skate.
Hermann, a "huge" Lightning fan who lives in Parrish and plays left wing for his team in Ellenton, led the team stretch at center ice, skated with C Steven Stamkos and C Yanni Gourde during two-on-none shooting drills and received faceoff pointers from C Brayden Point.
He scored twice on Budaj, including one-timing a pass from Stamkos.
"It was unbelievable. It was really fun," Hermann said. "I’m hoping to play with him when I get older. Stamkos, he has a seven-year contract. If he signs another contract, I can still play with him."
Hermann and his family were a guests of Cooper.
"Obviously, he’s going through a rough time," Gourde said. "It’s really fun to be able to have him out there with us and feed off his courage cause he’s a great kid. He’s got a lot of courage. I respect that a lot."
Gourde was also impressed with Hermann’s skills.
"The one time he was going with ‘Stammer,’ they looked pretty good together," Gourde said.
Number of the day
800 NHL games played by D Dan Girardi