Saturday, December 16, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning shuffles forwards searching for goals

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Lightning on Friday addressed what coach Jon Cooper called a "painful truth": Other than stars Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis, Tampa Bay forwards lately have been fairly invisible.

In seven games entering Friday, Stamkos and St. Louis had five goals each. The rest of the top six — Teddy Purcell, Ryan Malone, Alex Killorn and Valtteri Filppula — had combined for two. In response, the Lightning promoted Brett Connolly from AHL Syracuse and shuffled lines against the Hurricanes.

"We've gone a little bit stale here," Cooper said before the game. "We want to see if we can manufacture something."

It worked. Killorn scored in the 3-0 win as part of a new line with Stamkos and St. Louis, which had two goals and five points.

"We built a little bit of chemistry from last year; we played a little bit together," said Killorn. "You want to get one (goal) to break things through. I hope (Friday) was that night."

Malone, who had been on Stamkos' line, went to a line with Filppula and Purcell. Richard Panik was demoted from the third line to the fourth with C Nate Thompson and B.J. Crombeen. Connolly was on the third line with C Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat. Puck-moving D Mark Barberio, who had played just two previous games, also was in the lineup.

Tampa Bay entered Friday with an average 26.5 shots, 28th in the 30-team league. It got 32 against Carolina but just three in the first period. For Cooper, players must better recognize situations to generate more time with the puck.

"I'm not saying pull up on a breakaway because we need possession time," he said. But when entering the offensive zone facing equal numbers, "let's try to sustain a little bit more offensive time and get our D more involved. Everything doesn't have to go right to the net. Let's … get some goals the old-fashioned way: Get (pucks) to the net and bang home some rebounds."

STIFLED: G Ben Bishop has played two games for the Lightning at PNC Arena. He has two shutouts and has stopped 76 shots, 31 Friday and 45 April 4 in his Tampa Bay debut. His effort might have earned him the start tonight vs. the Blues, his hometown team for whom who he also has played. "If (Cooper) doesn't call on me, it's not going to be the end of the world," he said. "But it's something you would enjoy."

CONNOLLY CALLING: Connolly, who tied Stamkos in the preseason with a team-best four goals, had zero and one assist in six games for Syracuse. But GM Steve Yzerman said he is happy with Connolly's play. Connolly said he is, too: "I've been killing penalties, my work ethic has been there, and I feel I've been good at both ends of the rink. I'm getting (scoring) chances, which is the main thing."

ODDS AND ENDS: Tampa Bay won 21 of 56 faceoffs against Carolina. … With eight goals and 15 points in eight games, Syracuse RW Nikita Kucherov was named the AHL's October rookie of the month. … RW P.C. Labrie and defensemen Keith Aulie and Andrej Sustr were scratched.

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