TAMPA — Lightning D Jake Dotchin was scratched Saturday against the Devils, making it the fifth time in six games that he did not play.
"Obviously the playing time is down a bit," Dotchin said after the morning skate. "I just got to keep working hard, put my head down and do what I can do, do things in my control to get better and get back in the lineup."
In the top pairing with Victor Hedman for most of the season, Dotchin was scratched in four consecutive games before returning at Buffalo on Tuesday for the Lightning's last game of the recent road trip.
"There's been a few inconsistencies to his game. He knows it," coach Jon Cooper said. "You just got to round that stuff out."
Dotchin, who sees himself as a "simple defenseman" who moves the puck out of the zone and supports the rush when he can, said, "I don't think I took a step back. It's finding another step and bringing that to my game."
Cooper said Dotchin's recent scratches are no different from what defensemen Slater Koekkoek and Andrej Sustr have dealt with this season.
"Here's the thing," Cooper said. "We got eight defensemen (on the roster), and some guys are playing and some guys aren't. When you feel you got something good going on, you stick with it. But we've never been one to let guys sit for a while."
Quote of the day
"The fans will be disappointed."
Coach Jon Cooper, when told Saturday morning that former Lightning C Brian Boyle would not play in the game for the Devils because of a shoulder injury.
Not just a pretty scorer
RW Nikita Kucherov had a game-high 14 shot attempts (six on goal) Thursday against the Red Wings, but it was a pass to C Steven Stamkos that drew rave reviews from his teammates.
Kucherov passed on an opportunity to shoot from the right circle and sent the puck across the ice to Stamkos. With the net largely vacant, Stamkos easily scored on a one-timer.
"He's one of the best in the game for a reason," Stamkos said. "The ability and the respect that everyone has to have for his shot, it makes that pass even more lethal. Because everyone, including the goalie, is expecting a shot. (Kucherov) has the ability to fake it. And for the most part, I've just got to make sure I hit the net on those ones."
Kucherov said he hadn't been hitting the net, which is why he decided to pass.
"I saw 'Stammer' wide open," Kucherov said. "And when I see a shot, I shoot. When I see a guy open, I pass the puck."
Kucherov, one of the more unselfish scorers in the league, said his preference for playmaking dates to his days in Russia, where he was taught to look for the open man.
"Sometimes I feel definitely better when I pass the puck and someone else scores," Kucherov said. "You feel better than even scoring sometimes. And especially on that one. It was a great play by (D Victor Hedman), and Stammer got open. That was tic-tac-toe."
D Slater Koekkoek and C Matthew Peca were also scratched. … The Lightning begins a three-game road trip Tuesday in Washington, then continues to Ottawa on Thursday and Montreal on Saturday.
Times staff writer Joe Smith contributed to this report.