Partly Cloudy78° FULL FORECASTPartly Cloudy78° FULL FORECAST
Make us your home page
Instagram

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

(View our Privacy Policy)

Nerves gone, Namestnikov raises game with Stamkos

VANCOUVER — Vladislav Namestnikov remembers the first time he played on a line with captain Steven Stamkos. "There's obviously nerves. It's 'Stammer,' " Namestnikov said.

But it didn't take long for Namestnikov, 23, to just play his game: puck possession, playmaking, mixing speed and savvy. That has made the two a great pair.

With Stamkos the past two games, Namestnikov is a combined plus-5 with three assists, including setting up Nikita Kucherov's goal in overtime of Saturday's 3-2 victory over the Canucks. Namestnikov has been a difference-maker, helping the Lightning get back-to-back wins.

"His confidence of being a regular in this league, it's here, it's arrived," coach Jon Cooper said. "And I think there was probably a day he would have been intimidated to play with (Stamkos). But I don't think that's the case anymore. That's something that has to be overcome. People don't realize, (it's like) you're playing basketball and all of a sudden you're a point guard playing with LeBron James."

The Lightning might not have a more improved player than Namestnikov, a first-round draft pick in 2011 who has six goals and 12 assists, and is tied for the team lead at plus-10. Thrust into a top-six role this season due to injuries, Namestnikov held his own playing wing with Stamkos.

Now that the Lightning is healthy, Namestnikov has earned bigger minutes, logging 19:10 Saturday, including a 1:05 overtime shift. Tired, Namestnikov won a battle on the boards and found Kucherov for a breakaway goal.

"You can see why he has confidence. He's a great player," Kucherov said. "As much as he gets ice (time), that's how much he gets confidence."

Nerves gone, Namestnikov raises game with Stamkos 01/10/16 [Last modified: Monday, January 11, 2016 2:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2016 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...