Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lightning's Triplets appear reunited to face Senators

Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos, right, is congratulated by Ondrej Palat (18), of the Czech Republic, and Nikita Kucherov, of Russia, following Stamkos' goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C., Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015. Tampa Bay won 4-3. [Gerry Broome | Associated Press]

Tampa Bay Lightning's Steven Stamkos, right, is congratulated by Ondrej Palat (18), of the Czech Republic, and Nikita Kucherov, of Russia, following Stamkos' goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C., Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015. Tampa Bay won 4-3. [Gerry Broome | Associated Press]

TAMPA — The Triplets are back together.

The touted Lightning line, which had a magical run last season then was split up in early November, was reunited for Wednesday's practice, and presumably for tonight's game against the Senators. A big part of that is that the line's engine, wing Ondrej Palat, could return after missing more than four weeks with a left ankle injury.

"Maybe there's a little spark there," wing Jonathan Drouin said.

The Lightning (13-12-3) needs one, still hovering outside playoff position and facing an Ottawa team that's six points ahead of it for third place in the Atlantic Division (automatic playoff berth). Palat, one of the league's most underrated players, had left a huge void, a key cog in all situations.

"If you grab any team in the league and take arguably one of their top three most important players on your team, take him off and whatever those coaches would say, I'd reiterate," coach Jon Cooper said. "He's a big part of our team."

Like the Lightning, the Triplets struggled to start the season, with just three even strength points in the first 13 games (after tallying 96 last season) before getting separated Nov. 3. Injuries have taken a toll, with Tyler Johnson missing eight of the past 10 games with two separate injuries. Nikita Kucherov ranks second behind Steven Stamkos with eight goals.

"I think we weren't playing the way we wanted to play (earlier in the season)," Johnson said. "I think now, at this point of the season, I think everyone feels better. I know I feel better now than I did at the beginning of the season. We can take advantage and hopefully just take off from there."

Said Kucherov: "It's going to be fun to play with them again."

With Johnson and Palat returning, the Lightning could shift its lines around. Captain Steven Stamkos was back at center alongside Alex Killorn and Drouin — who has been a dangerous playmaker since returning Dec. 2 in Anaheim.

Cooper said the team has been "treading water" with all the injuries but must make a run in the next three weeks, starting tonight.

"We're behind them, looking at them right now makes it even bigger game for us," wing Ryan Callahan said. "We're chasing these guys, it's essentially a four-point game."

The Lightning is still without Cedric Paquette (upper body), who is out another week or two, Cooper said. Cooper said wing Erik Condra (lower body) is in "the same boat," out at least a week, which is disappointing for the former Senators forward. "Bad timing," Condra said. "Obviously I was excited, had this one marked on the calendar."

Palat said it's possible, but not 100 percent, he'll play tonight. He said it was tough watching his former linemates while injured, and hopes "we can get it going again."

"It's three talented guys, last year we saw what they're capable of," Callahan said. "They didn't get off to the start they wanted as a group, but they didn't lose it. They know how to play together. You can just see in practice how they find each other. So it's exciting to see them back."

Contact Joe Smith at Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.


Lightning vs. Senators, 7:30, Amalie Arena. TV/radio: Fox Sun; 970-AM

. Tonight

Lightning vs. Senators

When/where: 7:30, Amalie Arena

TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 970-AM

Key stats: The Senators (15-8-5) have won seven of their past 10 and are six points ahead of the Lightning (13-12-3) for the third spot in the Atlantic Division (automatic playoff berth). Ottawa ranks fourth in the league at 3.11 goals per game, led by Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Erik Karlsson (six goals, 26 assists), who quarterbacks its sixth-ranked power play (22.1 percent). The Lightning went 2-0-2 against Ottawa last season, with G Ben Bishop, a former Senator, starting all four. Bishop is 6-0-3 with a 2.25 goals-against average against the Senators in 10 career starts.

Joe Smith, Times staff writer

Lightning's Triplets appear reunited to face Senators 12/09/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 10:20pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. College World Series: Gators, LSU face off in all-SEC finals


    OMAHA, Neb. — The matchup for the College World Series finals bolsters the case for those who say the best baseball in the land is played in the SEC.

    Florida’s Brady Singer, delivering during a CWS win over Louisville last week, is scheduled to start tonight against LSU.
  2. Jones: Fox Sports Sun shows depth in Rays coverage

    TV and Radio

    tom jones' two cents

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Best coverage

    Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) makes a run home for a score in the in the final game of a three-game series between the Tampa Bay Rays and AL East rival the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, June 25, 2017.
  3. Brian Boyle says returning to Lightning a 'huge option'


    As former Lightning forward Brian Boyle approaches free agency this week, he said he's trying to stay busy.

  4. Rays journal: Blake Snell to rejoin rotation, Erasmo Ramirez heads to bullpen

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — LHP Blake Snell is rejoining the Rays' rotation, but the move has as much to do with helping the bullpen as it does with Snell's improvement during his time at Triple-A Durham.

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Erasmo Ramirez (30) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, June 21, 2017 in St. Petersburg.
  5. Rays' bullpen stars lit up in loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday it was the soft underbelly of the bullpen that let one get away from the Rays, incurring the wrath of the team's faithful followers, who wondered why the high-leverage guys weren't pitching.

    Rays closer Alex Colome, coming in with the score tied in the ninth, allows three runs in his second straight poor outing.