Thursday, February 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning's injury list keeps growing

TAMPA — The list of banged-up Lightning players continues to grow.

"It's getting ridiculous," LW Alex Killorn said.

One day after news that G Ben Bishop is expected to miss three to four weeks with a lower-body injury, forwards Vladislav Namestnikov (illness) and Cedric Paquette (lower-body injury) were scratched Thursday for the 5-2 win against the Blues.

That meant that six of the team's 12 regular forwards were out (the others were Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan). Even with forward Michael Bournival called up from AHL Syracuse, Tampa Bay had just 11 healthy forwards to fill out a lineup. Coach Jon Cooper had no choice but to play seven defensemen.

RELATED: Lightning comes back to top Blues.

"We're losing more players than we're adding," Cooper said.

Palat (undisclosed) and Kucherov (lower body) were on the ice for the morning skate. It was Kucherov's first team skate since Dec. 14, and he looked much better. Callahan (lower body) missed his 11th straight game. With just a game tonight in Washington before a four-day Christmas break, it looked like Kucherov, Palat and Callahan might be rested. Tampa Bay's next game after the break is Dec. 29.

HIS TURN: G Andrei Vasilevskiy got the start against the Blues, beginning what will be his first extended run as a No. 1 goalie.

"It's a good opportunity for me to play more games," Vasilevskiy said.

Vasilevskiy, 22, will shoulder a heavy load until Bishop returns. Kristers Gudlevskis, called up Wednesday from AHL Syracuse, is the backup.

It's new territory for Vasilev­skiy. But the Lightning has confidence in him, having seen what he has done in the playoffs the past two seasons substituting for Bishop when he was hurt, as well as how he has handled an increased workload this year.

"He's a National Hockey League goaltender and a really good one," coach Jon Cooper said. "The future's bright for him, but … the future is now for him, and we're going to need him to be big while 'Bish' is out."

PK POWER: The Lightning believed Tuesday's 5-for-5 performance on the penalty kill against the Red Wings was an encouraging step for the struggling unit, which entered Thursday 23rd in the league at 79 percent.

Though Cooper said one issue with the penalty kill had been inconsistent structure, a lot of improvement will come as soon as players take pride in it.

"Once you get over that hurdle, everything else comes a little bit easier," Cooper said. "Every time we took a penalty (against Detroit), you could just hear them on the bench like, 'We're killing this off.' So when you start with that attitude, it can help."

ON POINT: Rookie C Brayden Point snapped a 14-game goal drought with his power-play goal in Tuesday's 4-1 win over Detroit. It was just the third goal of the season for Point, but he could have about 10 more with all the chances he has created.

"It's hard to say he hasn't been our best player the last few games," Cooper said. "He's been outstanding at all ends of the ice. He's gotten the feel for the league a little bit now. Got him at center, and it's really opened up his game. His speed and tenacity are exceptional. With the hockey sense, it's the total package. It's really nice to see."

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