Monday, June 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning starts season in Boston

BOSTON — The NHL's new division alignment was not very kind to the Lightning.

Not only does the team face tough travel because the Atlantic Division is spread through the Northeast, Midwest and Canada, but five of its seven division opponents — the Bruins, Senators, Maple Leafs, Red Wings and Canadiens — were in last season's playoffs.

Coach Jon Cooper believes this is more of a challenge than a hardship because "you have to beat everybody to get in (the playoffs) anyway."

D Matt Carle agreed: "I think everyone is going to focus on, it sounds cliche, but taking it one game at a time and seeing where the chips fall. … Our league has so much parity, there really isn't going to be a night off, especially for a team like us that's trying to prove itself. It's not like this is a team that has been making the playoffs for a number of years. We're trying to change the culture, and for us, that means every game is a big one."

Still, tonight's season opener against the Bruins at TD Garden does have extra baggage because the Lightning has been historically bad in Boston during the regular season, going 4-26-3 with six ties.

Cooper, hired in late March, has only one reference point: last season's 2-0 loss in Boston on April 25.

"Got beat by a goalie (Tuukka Rask)," he said. "I don't think we went in there intimidated last year, and I surely don't think we will this year."

JUST PLAY: The Bruins before tonight's game will make the obligatory player introductions, but a team spokesperson said there is no plan for a banner raising to commemorate last season's Eastern Conference title.

If that is the case, Cooper likely will be disappointed because the event would have been a teachable moment.

"It's good for your team to see," Cooper said. "'Wouldn't you like that to happen to you?' You really don't get the feeling unless you're in the building.

"It's motivation to watch something like this go down. If you don't want to be on this side of it, then win a championship and you can be on the fun side of it."

LINEUP: Expect these lines, which were consistent in training camp, to at least start against the Bruins: Ryan Malone-Steven Stamkos-Marty St. Louis; Alex Killorn-Valtteri Filppula-Teddy Purcell; Ondrej Palat-Tyler Johnson-Richard Panik; Pierre-Cedric Labrie-Nate Thompson-B.J. Crombeen.

And these defensive pairings: Victor Hedman-Sami Salo; Eric Brewer-Andrej Sustr; Carle-Radko Gudas.

There was no word on the goaltender.

CAMP NOTE: Cooper stressed defensive-zone management during camp. The Lightning has struggled with that the past few season, and it will be important against a puck-possession team like the Bruins.

"We're still giving up some goals at a higher rate than we'd like to in the preseason, but we're not giving up nearly the scoring chances or nearly the odd-man rushes," Cooper said. "We'll just get better and better at it."

ODDS AND ENDS: Palat will wear No. 18 instead of the No. 74 he wore during camp. … There will be a watch party at Guy Harvey Outpost, 6000 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach.

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