Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer
Saturday, October 4, 2014 12:36pm
One of the key questions coming into Lightning training camp was deciding who would play on the top line with captain Steven Stamkos.
And, turns out, it could be familiar faces.
Stamkos centered a line with Calder Trophy finalists Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson in Saturday's morning skate. The trio played together briefly towards the end of last year, and in the playoffs.
While things could change between now and Thursday's opener, associate coach Rick Bowness said the lineup you'll see tonight against the Panthers is similar to what you'll see to start the season.
"Not 100-percent, but very close," Bowness said.
Bowness said there's a lot to like about a Stamkos/Johnson/Palat combo.
"Speed, skill, smarts," Bowness said. "They all have great hockey sense. They all have the ability to read off each other. Palat and Johnny are so smart, with Stammmer playing with guys like that, he can be more creative. He can be more offensive, gambling because he has two very smart players behind him. They're very reliable defensively. So their speed, they're skilled, they're smart, you just got to let them play and hopefully the chemistry will continue."
As for the other lines, Valtteri Filppula centered the second line with Ryan Callahan and Alex Killorn. Would make sense that group stays together.
The bottom two lines from Saturday's skate is where you might see some changes. On Saturday it was Brian Boyle with Brenden Morrow and J.T. Brown, a trio that has been together all preseason. Another had Vladislav Namestnikov, who is getting another look after an impressive camp, with Nikita Kucherov and Brett Connolly.
Bowness said they liked the duo of Namestnikov and Kucherov together, and wanted to see it again.
Bowness said they will go with seven defensemen and 11 forwards tonight, so some of those still battling for a spot will get another game. Plus, with Brenden Morrow out again with a stiff back, someone will have to take his spot..
More from today's skate: Touted wing prospect Jonathan Drouin skated on his own Saturday, but did not participate in the morning skate. He said he has yet to get follow-up x-rays on his fractured right thumb, but has had no setbacks. GM Steve Yzerman said Drouin could potentially start the season on injured reserve; in which case, Drouin would be eligible to play some rehab games with AHL Syracuse before getting put in the Lightning lineup... Morrow participated in the morning skate, and though his back is feeling better, he will be held out of his third straight game. Morrow said the team is being precautious, noting that several extra days of rest will allow his back to settle down. Though Morrrow has played just preseason game, he expects to be ready for the season...G Ben Bishop is expected to play the whole game tonight.. Bowness on D Victor Hedman: "I've been around a long time, I've never seen a guy in our league 6-6 skate like him. Bowness also praised new D Anton Stralman: "He's everything we had hoped for and more," he said...Apparently it was the young guys - Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Radko Gudas - who won the Lightning team golf tournament Friday in Lakewood Ranch.