Friday, February 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning's Cooper tries out different line setups

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Lineup tweaks happen all the time in the NHL. And as Lightning coach Jon Cooper said of his juggling for Tuesday's game with the Sabres, "It's Game 3, so we're trying different things out."

But given the fanfare around the promotion from AHL Syracuse of the line of C Tyler Johnson, Richard Panik and Ondrej Palat — and how well it played in the preseason — scratching Panik got some extra attention.

"Sometimes things aren't rolling right for them," Cooper said. "Sometimes it's good to break up the family."

Especially after two games in which the line had just four shots on goal and was minus-5. "We have to find a way to transfer to the NHL how we were playing in the AHL," Panik said. "The first two games, we didn't play so good, so we have to find a way."

RW Teddy Purcell took Panik's spot. Tom Pyatt took over for Purcell on a line with C Valtteri Filppula and Alex Killorn.

Moving Purcell had its own back story. Cooper said Purcell and Filppula are too much of the same player — pass-first types — to be on the same line. But Purcell's puck skills might be able to help Johnson and Palat.

"Teddy can create some space for some people," Cooper said.

As for the Johnson-Palat-Panik line, it is not dead.

"We sit here and say, 'Oh, well, the three of them made the team,' " he said. "The three of them would have made the team individually as well. Sometimes you just got to split them up."

"It's disappointing, but I guess I deserve it," Panik said. "I don't want to get sent down. I'm going to try to convince the coach I am still part of this team, and I will work hard in practice and after practices off-ice, and we'll see what happens."

PYATT HURT: Pyatt left the game with 13 minutes left in the third period with a broken collarbone, the team said. He is out indefinitely. A callup from AHL Syracuse is likely. Pyatt, in his first game of the season, had a shot and a hit in 13:15 of ice time.

MORE MOVES: Rookie D Andrej Sustr was scratched in favor of Keith Aulie. "He deserves to be in," Cooper said of Aulie, a scratch in the first two games. "Aulie is a good defenseman in this league. … Guys got to get in and play."

"It's tough sitting out," said Aulie, who last season played 45 of 48 games. "You feel like you're outside of the team for a couple of hours." Paired with Eric Brewer, Aulie, a lefty, called playing the right side "a new challenge" and had 12:41 of ice time.

POTENTIAL: Sustr, 22, has impressed even while acclimating to the speed of the game. In the first two games of the season, he had zero points and was minus-1, but he had four shots and averaged 19:20 of ice time.

Cooper called the 6-foot-8, 225-pounder "an almost every-dayer in our lineup, and in the not-to-distant future he'll be an every-dayer. (He) has a really good mind for the game."

"I'm not disappointed in anything," Sustr said of sitting out. "I'll just take it as it is, and I'm just going to keep working hard."

BLUE CARPET: Lightning players will walk the blue carpet at the Tampa Bay Times Forum beginning at 4 p.m. Thursday before the home opener against the Panthers. Players will sign autographs and take photos. The first 10,000 fans get thunder sticks.

ODDS AND ENDS: About 1,000 tickets remained for the home opener. … D Mark Barberio also was scratched.

 
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