TAMPA — While C Alex Killorn's skill set makes him a good fit on a line with C Steven Stamkos and RW Marty St. Louis, coach Jon Cooper wasn't comfortable placing him with the two stars to start the season.
"It's only human nature putting pressure on yourself playing with an Art Ross Trophy winner (St. Louis) and a Rocket Richard (winner, Stamkos)," Cooper said, referencing the league awards for most points and goals. "Especially for a rookie."
But Killorn, 24, has provided a spark to the top line the past two games, racking up a combined five points, including a career-high three in Saturday's 4-2 win over the Blues. Killorn had a goal and two assists, and hit the post on an empty-net shot late in the third for a team-high plus-3.
"He's got two world-class linemates, but I thought he more than held his own," Cooper said. "I thought he was outstanding."
Stamkos said he and St. Louis like to push the pace, so Killorn is a "great fit" due to his speed. Killorn is also smart and strong with the puck, creating opportunities for his linemates. "He's been a nice addition," Stamkos said. "He's got a ton of skill."
Killorn, 24, says he's in a better position now to join Stamkos and St. Louis than he was last season, when he played his first 38 NHL games. "Last year … I was trying to stay up and prove myself," said Killorn, who has four goals and eight assists. "This year I'm playing with a little more confidence. When you're playing with those guys, you always want to get them the puck and do certain things. But with my confidence this year, I'm not too intimidated to play with them."
The key, Cooper said, is for Killorn to keep his shoot-first mentality and not automatically defer to the All-Stars. He said there was no better example of that than in Friday's 3-0 win over Carolina when Stamkos knocked in a rebound of a Killorn shot.
"Things have been going really well for us," Killorn said. "With those guys, it's pretty easy. They command so much respect that they give me a ton of room out there."
STEPPING IN: Rookie D Mark Barberio started for the second straight game after playing in two of the team's first 12. Cooper said Barberio, 23, deserved to stay in the lineup after playing well Friday, when he "elevated our offense" in logging 15 minutes. Barberio had an assist Saturday, his first career point. "He's got a dynamic part to his game," Cooper said. "He can skate, he can move pucks, he jumps into plays, he's got a big-time offensive side to him. I thought he did an exceptional job (Friday)."
QUOTE TO NOTE: When Blues coach Ken Hitchcock was asked if he had previous knowledge of Cooper, in his first full NHL season after coaching in the AHL, he said, "No. I had to look at a video to see what he looked like, to be honest with you."
misc.: Defensemen Andrej Sustr and Keith Aulie and LW P.C. Labrie were scratched.