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Lightning puts tough road stretch in perspective

Tampa Bay in middle of 18 road games out of 24, with long homestand looming
Vladislav Namestnikov, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov were reunited at today's morning skate. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Vladislav Namestnikov, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov were reunited at today's morning skate. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Feb. 15, 2018|Updated Feb. 16, 2018

It's natural for Lightning fans – even coaches and players – to ride the emotional wave of this difficult stretch of the season.

There's no question Tampa Bay hasn't played its best hockey in the past month, 9-8-1 since Jan. 4.

But the Lightning is in a stretch of 18 road games out of 24, and is 11-8-1 so far.  Soon that will flip, after next week's three-game trip, the Lightning will have 10 of 11 at home.

"It's been hard," coach Jon Cooper said. "We've played the most road games in the league by quite a bit. Sometimes it's going to come back around. One thing that weighs on you a little bit is we're a distance travel team, so an extra hour on flights and it can wear on you.

"We still like where we are in the standings. Would we love to win every single game? We would. But it's 82 games and guys are giving us everything they have. Have we played the smartest hockey as of late? Probably not. But in the end, guys have been giving it their best, and that's all  you want."

It helps the Lightning will face Detroit for two reasons. Tampa Bay has won the last 10 regular season meetings with the Red Wings. And these always tend to be emotional, physical games, with both teams not liking each other.

"It always seems like a little game within the game everytime we play them," Cooper said. "It should amp up the emotional side of things."

Johnny Be Good

Tyler Johnson is in the midst of a 14-game goal drought, the second longest of his career. His longest was 15 games this November, and you should remember he responded with a 12 game points streak and  the best month of his career.

So Johnson isn't sweating this scoring slump, especially considering he's getting his chances (six shots Monday in Toronto).

"It's just one of those things you have to keep going, plugging away," Johnson said. "That's what goal scoring is, it's an up and down thing. We've gone through that our entire lives."

More from morning skate: C Brayden Point did not participate, with the team saying he was resting for "body maintenance." Judging by who was on the ice the latest, looks like Jake Dotchin, Slater Koekkoek and Cory Conacher could be scratched; Dotchin didn't help his cause by taking a bad retaliation penalty in the third period Tuesday, with Cooper bringing it up unprovoked in the post-game presser… G Andrei Vasilevskiy will start for Tampa Bay. Red Wings forward Adreas Athanasiou will not play tonight due to an illness, per the Detroit Free Press.


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