Saturday, September 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Stamkos, Kucherov having scoring chemistry

TAMPA — Often, a team's top two goal scorers will be split up to provide balanced lines.

There are exceptions, such as the Stars' Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. The Lightning has found a dynamic duo since putting C Steven Stamkos and RW Nikita Kucherov together a few weeks ago alongside LW Alex Killorn.

Stamkos (six goals, three assists) and Kucherov (four goals, four assists) have combined for 17 points in the past six games. Each had a goal and Kucherov also had an assist in Friday's 7-4 win over the Islanders. Stamkos leads the team with 35 goals. Kucherov (29) is the only other player with more than 20.

"I've always felt that 'Kuch' and I had good chemistry in the small sample sizes that we've had," Stamkos said. "Obviously you're trying to find some balance, but any time you get a chance to play with him, it's always fun. You look at the skill set he possesses, it's the smarts, too. He knows where to put the puck. He knows where to be. He knows where to support. And when you give him the puck in scoring areas, he can put it in the back of the net."

Kucherov spent most of last season on the Triplets line with C Tyler Johnson and LW Ondrej Palat. Early this season he saw action on a line with Stamkos and C Vladislav Namestnikov. Kucherov said he watched how Marty St. Louis complemented Stamkos a few years ago and tried to implement what he learned.

" 'Stammer' is a great player, probably the best player in the league," Kucherov said. "And I think sometimes we think the same way. You can see it on the ice. I always know where Stammer is going to be, and I'm sure he knows where I'm going to be. It's just so much fun playing with him. Every time he has the puck on his stick … if you're open, he's going to find you."

Kucherov got hurt blocking a shot in the third period but finished the game. Coach Jon Cooper said they would see how Kucherov felt today but he likely would be sore.

MEDICAL MATTERS: C Valtteri Filppula and RW Ryan Callahan participated in Friday's morning skate again, albeit in grey jerseys. And though the veterans are getting closer to returning, both were out against the Islanders and were likely to miss today's game with the Panthers.

Filppula, who has skated with the team since Saturday, said he was "really close" to returning, having tried contact recently. "It's still not where I want it to be," he said. "But the good thing now is everything else feels pretty close to normal."

Callahan has skated on his own the past few days, but this was his first practice since getting hurt March 17 in Dallas. He hadn't tried much contact. Callahan said his injury had been lingering "and kind of hit its tipping point in the Dallas game."

LINING UP: G Ben Bishop started. Andrei Vasilevskiy was to start tonight. D Nikita Nesterov was scratched. … RW Jonathan Drouin, suspended for Wednesday's game with AHL Syracuse for oversleeping and missing a team meeting, was back in the lineup Friday against Albany and had a goal in a 3-1 win.

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