Saturday, September 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning's Vasilevskiy gets unusual 2nd straight start

ST. LOUIS — It raised eyebrows when the Lightning played G Andrei Vasilevskiy on Thursday against the Blues, the first time the backup started consecutive games this season.

It had appeared to be Ben Bishop's turn, the two-time Vezina Trophy finalist having started two of every three games. And he had started all three previous games in his hometown since joining the Lightning in 2013 (going 0-2-1).

But coach Jon Cooper said that just as Tampa Bay has put Bishop back in after lopsided losses that weren't his fault, he wanted to do the same with Vasilevskiy, who started Tuesday's 5-1 loss in Columbus.

"Vasilevskiy's played extremely well. We've been on a little bit of a tough run here," Cooper said. " 'Vasy' is on the wrong end of a tough one. We've gone back to 'Bish' on those. We're going back with Vasy in this situation."

But Vasilevskiy had another tough one Thursday. He was pulled 1:44 into the second period after giving up his fourth goal and replaced by Bishop in the 5-4 loss, the Lightning's fourth straight.

RELATED: Lightning loses its season-high fourth straight.

TO THE BOX: C Vladislav Namestnikov will be the first to say he has struggled recently and needs to play better.

So it shouldn't have been a complete surprise to him that he was a healthy scratch for the first time this season.

Still, it was disappointing for Namestnikov, who at one point played on a top line with C Steven Stamkos. Namestnikov was minus-6 in his previous two games and saw his ice time dwindle.

"With everything that wasn't going for me, maybe a mental break will be good," Namestnikov said. "Just got to work hard and get back in lineup. I guess things like this happen in players' careers. You've got to work through it."

Coach Jon Cooper reiterated that Namestnikov is a "very important player" and that his stint in the press box would be brief. Cooper also said he thinks that being a healthy scratch can be helpful.

"It's not a punishment," Cooper said. "A lot of situations, you watch the game from a different perspective, it can be beneficial and positive."

STEPPING IN: Forwards Michael Bournival and Joel Vermin, called up Wednesday from AHL Syracuse, played Thursday. Cooper hoped they could inject some energy.

Bournival is a great comeback story. He missed a good chunk of last season with a concussion. Thursday was his first NHL game since Feb. 28, 2015. "I'm very proud of what I did to get back in the NHL," Bournival said. "Now I've got an opportunity to prove myself."

Vermin, one of the final cuts in training camp, was pumped to be back, his stint with the Lightning cut short last season due to a fractured hand.

With RW Ryan Callahan on injured reserve with a lower-body injury and not eligible to return until after this weekend, Bournival and Vermin will be around for at least a few games.

NUTS AND BOLTS: D Anton Stralman returned to the lineup after missing nine games with an upper-body injury. … RW Nikita Kucherov was the NHL's second star of the month for November after tallying 10 goals and 18 points. … D Slater Koekkoek and D Luke Witkowski were healthy scratches.

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