Thursday, December 14, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning's Filppula knows his shot(s) will come

NASHVILLE — Valtteri Filppula heard often when he played for the Red Wings he did not shoot the puck enough.

So, on Tuesday, when the Lightning's new center was asked about the criticism, he reacted in mock exasperation.

"Now don't start that over here," he said. "I've heard enough about it."

But Filppula also conceded, "It's true. That's part of my game I need to be better."

Filppula, 29, signed to a five-year, $25 million contract, is acclimating well to his new team.

He's only played three games, and in that context coach Jon Cooper said, "it's unfair to build him up," but added, "It's pretty impressive to see what he's done in the preseason."

Filppula has a team-best four assists in three games after Tuesday night's exhibition loss to the Predators at Bridgestone Arena, and his four points are tied for second behind Steven Stamkos.

Filppula's defensive sensibilities also are honed — "It's never fun to get scored on. I hate that feeling" — and Cooper said of his puck skills, "The puck's like a yo-yo on his stick. He just sticks it out there and pulls it in."

But "if I was going to poke a hole in his game, I wish he would shoot more," Cooper added. "He gets some really big opportunities to shoot and sometimes becomes a bit of a pass-first guy."

There is potential for concern if, as in most of preseason, Filppula, who had just two shots in three games, is on a line with right wing Teddy Purcell, another notoriously pass-first player.

"Steve kind of made fun of us the other night," Purcell said of general manager Steve Yzerman, "saying we had good style points but none of us were shooting. We're going to have to break that habit really quick or Coop won't put us together that much."

To just shoot more is not as easy as it sounds.

Filppula said the coaching emphasis in his native Finland is always defense first "and then find a way to get enough goals to win the game."

And playing eight seasons with the Red Wings, feeding scorers such as Dan Cleary, Jiri Hudler and Henrik Zetterberg, reinforced what he already knew.

That said, Filppula has a fine shot. In 2011-12, it took him just 144 shots to score 23 goals. Zetterberg took 267 to score 22. Filppula also showed a scorer's touch on Saturday's shootout goal against the Blues.

Even so, should the Lightning tweak what makes Filppula such a good two-way player?

"Remember," Cooper said, "goal scoring, for the most part, has not been an issue with our team, it's playing D. We need somebody who is going to play both ends of the ice and penalty kill. If he delivers on that end, the rest is gravy."

Filppula works hard on his defense, especially puck possession, which he said was tested often with Detroit during keep-away games with star center Pavel Datsyuk.

Perhaps that is where the emphasis should remain.

"He's very reliable," said defenseman Sami Salo, who played with Filppula on Finland's 2010 Olympic team, "picks pockets from opposing forwards, great vision and puck-handling skills."

"He's got unbelievable poise," Cooper said. "His puck-protecting skills are as high end as they could possibly be. He has confidence, exceptional skills and can skate.

"You add all that up, you have a pretty darn good hockey player."

LIGHTNING FALLS: Tampa Bay goaltender Anders Lindback, in his first game against his former team, stopped 31 of 33 shots. But goals by Simon Moser in the second period and Kevin Klein in the third gave the Predators a 2-1 victory. Stamkos got his third goal in three games for Tampa Bay, which was outshot 31-17 and lost for the first time in five preseason games. Jonathan Drouin, the No. 3 overall pick in this year's draft, had his first NHL point with an assist.

NOTES: The game was delayed 10 minutes when the arena lights would not come on after the national anthem. … Center Mike Angelidis' wife, Lenna, delivered their first child, daughter Santana, Sunday in Toronto. … Right wing Marty St. Louis, who has played only one of five preseason games, will play the final two, Cooper said. … Sun Sports' Lightning season preview will premiere tonight at 5:30 p.m.

Predators0112
Lightning0011

First PeriodNone. PenaltiesCrombeen, TB, major (fighting), 9:16; Hendricks, Nas, major (fighting), 9:16; Sustr, TB (holding), 19:43.

Second Period1, Nashville, Moser 1 (Clune), 4:48. PenaltiesClune, Nas (hooking), 2:40; Stamkos, TB (high-sticking), 9:32; Fisher, Nas (boarding), 13:40.

Third Period2, Nashville, Klein 1, 14:47. 3, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 3 (Drouin, Brown), 19:14. PenaltiesBrewer, TB (cross-checking), 4:37; Kucherov, TB (delay of game), 12:37; Labrie, TB (roughing), 16:23. Shots on GoalTampa Bay 2-12-3—17. Nashville 13-7-13—33. Power-play opportunitiesTampa Bay 0 of 2; Nashville 0 of 5. GoaliesTampa Bay, Lindback 1-1-0 (33 shots-31 saves). Nashville, Rinne 2-0-0 (14-14), Mazanec (0:00 third, 3-2). A13,089 (17,113). T2:33. Referees—Frederick L'Ecuyer, Tim Peel. LinesmenBrian Murphy, Bryan Pancich.

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