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Why did the Lightning go back to using six defensemen?

After 10 games playing with 11 forwards and seven defenseman, Jon Cooper goes back to the usual lineup.
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (98)  battles San Jose Sharks left wing Evander Kane (9) in front of the net in the defensive zone during second period action at Amalie Arena on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019 in Tampa. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (98) battles San Jose Sharks left wing Evander Kane (9) in front of the net in the defensive zone during second period action at Amalie Arena on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019 in Tampa. [DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Dec. 8, 2019
Updated Dec. 8, 2019

TAMPA — It’s been a while since we’ve seen a traditional lineup from the Lightning. After 10 games playing with an extra defenseman, they returned to the usual on Saturday.

Why go back to 12-forward, six-defenseman lineup?

“Because the other option was 12 and eight,” coach Jon Cooper joked. “The same reason we went to 11-7. We figure what’s going to help us for our opponent and for our team. Right now, looking at this game, the next game, the game after and this is what fits for us.”

Related: MORE LIGHTNING: The team isn't panicking but they know they need to find a 'killer instinct'

Not exactly an expansive answer.

When the Lightning started using an 11-7 lineup, Cooper cited matchups and ice time. The different lineup forced both lines and defensive pairings to rotate. That had pluses and minuses. It allowed the team to manage matchups more closely. It also means there’s not a lot of rhythm in terms of who is playing with whom.

Establishing the rhythm of regular lines and pairs could help as the Lightning look to eliminate the short-term lapses that have cost them a few games recently. Sometimes a coach will change something not because it wasn’t working, but to try to spark something else.

The roster also looks different now. The Lightning had eight healthy defensemen when they started using seven. With Braydon Coburn out indefinitely with a lower-body injury, they have the same one healthy scratch going back to the six blueliners.

Contact Diana C. Nearhos at dnearhos@tampabay.com. Follow @dianacnearhos.

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