BUFFALO — Lightning coach Jon Cooper admitted he was curious to get his first "sneak peak" at Sabres C Jack Eichel.
Eichel, 18, the prized No. 2 overall draft pick this year, has entered the league with humongous hype, along with top pick C Connor McDavid with the Oilers. And after facing him Saturday — Eichel was minus-1 with one shot and no points in the Lightning's 4-1 win — Tampa Bay was impressed.
"You can see the skill," C Steven Stamkos said. "He's going to get better as he's going to get an opportunity to play as a young kid. That's all you can ask for. He's a great player. You can tell the more comfortable he gets, sometimes it takes some time."
The Lightning will see a lot of Eichel early; it plays the Sabres four times in its first 18 games. Cooper was impressed with what Eichel's arrival has done for the city of Buffalo.
"Seems like right now he's the real deal," Cooper said. "So good for him."
THE NEW GUY: RW Erik Condra, the only significant free agent the Lightning added in the offseason, was happy to endear himself to his new teammates quickly with his first goal two games into the season. Condra's wrist shot from the point in the second period got through traffic. "It gets the weight off your shoulders a little bit," he said.
HOLD ON: C Vladislav Namestnikov didn't get an assist on RW J.T. Brown's third-period goal, but he helped make the play happen. Namestnikov showed great poise in keeping the puck in the Sabres' zone, battling along the wall before getting the puck to D Braydon Coburn at the point. Brown deflected a D Jason Garrison shot in. "He's got ice in his veins when he gets it," Cooper said of Namestnikov. "He got stronger as the game went on."
JOHNNY BE GOOD: The Lightning had a scare early in the third period when C Tyler Johnson left the game temporarily. Johnson got tangled up behind the play with Eichel and Sabres LW Evander Kane, and was slow to get up, favoring his left leg. But Johnson returned about four minutes later.
"He said he felt fine," Cooper said. "Any time you've got a player down, there's always that sick feeling in your stomach."
LINING UP: The Lightning had the same lineup as in Thursday's opener, with C Cedric Paquette and D Nikita Nesterov scratched. Cooper said Paquette, who has been dealing with a left foot injury, was available and could play Monday at Boston or Tuesday at Detroit.
A TARGET: With the Sabres facing the Lightning so often in the season's first month, new coach Dan Bylsma said it could be an opportunity to show how much progress the franchise has made. "It's not too early to make a statement on this team in playing them," Bylsma said. "We definitely would like to be able to start doing that right now."
NUTS AND BOLTS: G Ben Bishop was sharp again with 24 saves and will likely start Monday. … Garrison's overtime goal Thursday against the Flyers was his fourth winning goal in 71 games with the Lightning. Thirteen of Garrison's 44 career goals have been winners.