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Lightning trusting rookie Jake Dotchin to boost power play

Jake Dotchin, right, battling for position with the Blackhawks’ Marian Hossa near the goal last month, was running the point on the Lightning power play in his 10th NHL game Saturday.
Jake Dotchin, right, battling for position with the Blackhawks’ Marian Hossa near the goal last month, was running the point on the Lightning power play in his 10th NHL game Saturday.
Published Feb. 20, 2017

DENVER — Raise your hand if you thought rookie D Jake Dotchin would be running the point on the power play at any point this season.

Didn't think so.

But there was Dotchin, 22, on Saturday against the Stars, getting key special teams shifts in just his 10th NHL game. But there's a reason for it: The Lightning likes Dotchin's shot — specifically, how he's able to get the puck to the net. An example was on Victor Hedman's goal Saturday when he pounced on a rebound of a Dotchin tipped shot.

"He's been unbelievable for us," C Tyler Johnson said. "You mention him being able to get shots through. Since he's been up, he's probably been one of our best defenders at doing that. He's got a lot of skill, has the size, he can skate and he competes hard. He's earned his time."

Dotchin, 6 feet 3 and 207 pounds, said he got some power-play time with AHL Syracuse, initially as a one-timer setup man on the second unit. But with injuries and callups, he got more time. Dotchin credits Crunch coach Benoit Groulx with encouraging him to move more at the blue line to create shooting lanes. Getting shots through hasn't always been Dotchin's strong suit. "I've been working at it," he said. "And now it's showing up a little in my game."

Dotchin's simple, steady game has earned the trust of the Lightning coaches, who have put him out in 3-on-3 overtime situations.

"He's not intimidated by the NHL, but he's also not been cocky," coach Jon Cooper said. "He just took what he learned in the (AHL), he's applied it to the NHL, and it's working for him."

Trade talk

The Lightning had representatives at both Predators games over the weekend, including assistant GM Pat Verbeek on Sunday. Nashville assistant GM Paul Fenton has been at a few Lightning games in Tampa. Could the teams be a fit at the March 1 deadline? Reps/scouts at Sunday's Lightning game in Colorado included two from the Rangers and one apiece from Montreal, Washington, Chicago and Columbus. Calgary, which could have interest in G Ben Bishop, got to watch the two-time Vezina Trophy finalist start Sunday. Bishop was nearly dealt to Calgary at last year's draft.

Numbers of the day

3-12-4 All teams' record this season in their first game after their bye

What they're saying

"We're a desperate team. We need points. We need wins."

Defenseman Victor Hedman

Slap shots

> D Luke Witkowski was scratched for the fourth straight game. You'd think he'd get a shot at playing, maybe replacing Andrej Sustr for a night. The AHL Syracuse captain is in limbo. He likely would be lost on waivers if Tampa Bay tried sending him down.

> The Triplets line of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov was reunited late Saturday and to start Sunday's game. Maybe that can spark Kucherov, who entered Sunday without a point in three straight games, his longest stretch of the season.

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> For those wondering why LW Michael Bournival hasn't been recalled from Syracuse, he hasn't even played in the past three games because of an undisclosed injury. He's considered day-to-day.