Sunday, April 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning focuses on power-play faceoffs

CHICAGO — Amid all the hand-wringing about how the Lightning didn't shoot enough against the Bruins on the power play and didn't react well when primary plays were taken away, there is this:

Tampa Bay won only 4 of 13 (31 percent) power-play faceoffs, meaning 69 percent of the time it had to waste time gaining possession of the puck.

"You've got to go back and get it; no guarantee you're getting right back in (the offensive zone)," coach Jon Cooper said. "All of a sudden you look up, 30 seconds is gone on the power play and you're not even in synch. Your players are a little bit tired. It has a huge effect."

The lack of initial puck possession helped Tampa Bay go 0-for-5 against the Bruins on the power play, including two five-on-threes.

It was something the Lightning addressed for Saturday's game with the Blackhawks, and not just with the centers. Faceoff wins are also about wings controlling loose pucks.

As C Steven Stamkos, who lost 16 of 25 draws against Boston, said, "If you're not winning them clean, your job is to at least create a battle to give your wingers a chance to get in there.

"They know I'm going to try my best to win it clean every time. If not, it's a group thing."

Not that it did much immediate good. In a first period against Chicago in which the Lightning was outshot 12-0, it lost 12 of 18 faceoffs.

SALO RETURNS: D Sami Salo played after missing the Bruins game and Friday's practice with what the team said was an upper-body injury.

The issue is not serious, Salo said, and he was held out only as a precaution.

"These guys are conditioned athletes, but sometimes things pop up," Cooper said.

KEEP THE FAITH: Blackhawks D Mike Kostka couldn't say enough about how Cooper helped his career while both were with AHL Norfolk — then the Lightning's affiliate — during the 2011-12 season.

"He knows the game," Kostka said. "He can be strict at times, but he also knows how to have fun with the guys. He was a good balance for us."

Kostka, 27, had seven goals, 32 points and was plus-28 in 52 games for the Admirals, who won 28 straight to end the regular season and then won the Calder Cup.

He signed that summer with Toronto as a free agent and Saturday made his Chicago debut.

"My goal was to make it to the NHL," Kostka said. "At the same time, you never forget the things that got you there, and an experience like that helped propel me forward."

THUMBS UP: Marty St. Louis was the right choice for Lightning captain, said Blackhawks backup G Nik Khabibulin, St. Louis' teammate during Tampa Bay's 2004 Stanley Cup run.

"He's always been the motor, the engine of that team," Khabibulin said. "He's also got so much respect from his teammates for what he's done over his career and how he started and had to battle through and what he has become. It's a logical choice."

ODDS AND ENDS: C Nate Thompson turned 29 on Saturday. Asked what he got for his birthday, he said, "A shaving cream (pie) in the face." … Defensemen Keith Aulie and Mark Barberio, and F Tom Pyatt were scratched.

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