Thursday, February 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning's Jon Cooper ups intrigue on line combos

TAMPA — Jon Cooper always has been a bit cagey before games about how he will construct his lines and what players will be scratched.

But the Lightning coach took it to new heights during Wednesday's morning skate before Game 1 with the Canadiens by showing different combinations during line rushes and different defensive pairings as well.

"I don't know," he said when asked how many line combinations he displayed, a camouflage tactic against whatever Montreal coaches were watching and to prevent the media from reporting anything definitive.

"I think we had one big line of 16 forwards and one long line of nine defensemen," Cooper said. "You have to show up to see who plays."

C Valtteri Filppula laughed about the personnel merry-go-round, which he downplayed.

"It's a morning skate. You're just trying to get your body going," he said. "I don't think it matters that much."

It might, however, affect one of the series' more intriguing potential matchups: Tampa Bay C Steven Stamkos against Montreal C Tomas Plekanec.

But Cooper said he is not so much worried about matchups as what lines are playing well.

"If you can balance out your lines a little bit and get waves of attack, sometimes it doesn't matter who's matched up against who," Cooper said. "Until you see how it transpires, it's tough to make a determination of how you're going to run your lines."

Canadiens D Josh Gorges said Tampa Bay's line combinations shouldn't matter.

"You have to be prepared, but you can't start changing and adapting our game and doing things that are uncharacteristic because of what they're doing," He said. "We have to do what made our team successful."

Still, Cooper kept Montreal guessing during pregame warmups, too, using 19 skaters instead of 18 so a last healthy scratch could not be determined.

PALAT HURT: LW Ondrej Palat left the 5-4 overtime loss early in the third period. There was no word on the nature of the injury, though he was seen walking around the locker room.

Palat, with a team-best 59 points, missed Sunday's regular-season finale after a hard check Friday by Columbus D Jack Johnson that included contact with Palat's head.

MORE MEDICAL MATTERS: G Ben Bishop (left elbow) skated on his own before the morning skate. He was in full gear but did not take shots. … Filppula (lower body) was back in the lineup after missing two games.

DEBUT: His Stanley Cup playoff debut is personal for Cedric Paquette, who grew up in Quebec rooting for the Canadiens but was passed over by Montreal in the 2012 draft.

"They had me in the draft and didn't pick me," said the center, whom the Lightning took 101st overall. "I just try to play my game and make them pay."

The gritty Paquette, 20, finished his first pro season with AHL Syracuse with 20 goals, 44 points and 153 penalty minutes in 70 games. He then found a niche with the Lightning, playing the final two regular-season games with an assist, a 55.2 faceoff winning percentage and an average 14:32 of ice time.

The Lightning considered calling up the 6-foot-1, 198-pounder sooner, Cooper said, but did not want to interrupt what they considered a learning season. "We thought, 'Give him a full stretch. Let him play,' " he said.

ODDS AND ENDS: Lightning players are wearing T-shirts with "Capture the Dream" printed on the back. … Forwards B.J. Crombeen, Tom Pyatt and Ryan Malone, and defensemen Keith Aulie, Mark Barberio and Andrej Sustr also were scratched. … C Cody Kunyk is not eligible to play because he signed out of college after the March 5 trade deadline and was not on Tampa Bay's reserve list. … Montreal D Doug Murray, who concussed Lightning D Mike Kostka on April 1 with an elbow to the jaw, was scratched

     
           
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