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Lightning’s Alex Barre-Boulet makes his NHL debut

The forward prospect plays on the team’s third line Monday against Carolina.
Tampa Bay Lightning rookie Alex Barre-Boulet skates against the Carolina Hurricanes during the third period in Raleigh, N.C.
Tampa Bay Lightning rookie Alex Barre-Boulet skates against the Carolina Hurricanes during the third period in Raleigh, N.C. [ GERRY BROOME | Associated Press ]
Published Feb. 23
Updated Feb. 23

Alex Barre-Boulet admitted he didn’t get much sleep Sunday night.

The 23-year-old was told before dinner that he’d be elevated from the Lightning taxi squad and make his NHL debut Monday night against Carolina.

And barring a few butterflies, the Lightning rookie forward didn’t disappoint, making an immediate impact in the 4-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.

Lightning coach Jon Cooper shuffled his forward lines, pairing Barre-Boulet on the right side with left wing Alex Killorn and center Yanni Gourde on a revamped third line. He also joined the Lightning’s second power play unit, where he saw practice reps last week.

“I think I played with two great players so they made it a lot easier for me,” Barre-Boulet said. “Obviously I had some butterflies in my stomach during warmups, but I think after the first shift, I was fine and I was just focusing on my game.”

Barre-Boulet played 12:11 of ice time on 18 shifts, including 3:20 of ice time on the power play for Tampa Bay, which was coming off three losses over the past four games entering the night.

The 5-foot-9, 172-pound Barre-Boulet made a quick impact. He showed his passing ability early on. He flicked a pass from behind his own end line high in the air to Killorn in the neutral zone for a first-period breakaway. He also made a nice cross-circle pass in the second period to set up Ondrej Palat for an open shot before Palat drew a tripping call.

The rookie has been a dangerous scorer at every level he has played. That was a boon for the Lightning, who in two previous meetings with Carolina had not scored. Barre-Boulet also fit in well with the Lightning’s focus of playing a more direct game against the Hurricanes.

“That’s the kind of game I tried to play when I’m in (the AHL with) Syracuse so it wasn’t something different for me,” he said. “Obviously, I think it’s a lot easier when you’re playing north just keeping things simple. So I think that’s what I tried to do tonight.”

Barre-Boulet played with the Lightning in their summer restart camp and again in this year’s preseason camp, but Tampa Bay preferred to get him regular playing time rather than having him sit on the taxi squad. But with the Lightning looking to create more offense and switching their lines, it seemed to be an opportune time to add Barre-Boulet into the fold.

“What a test to throw him in against Carolina,” Cooper said. “And I thought he passed with flying colors. He was responsible at the puck and he wasn’t afraid out there. He took command when he had it.”

Barre-Boulet was recalled from Syracuse to join Tampa Bay’s taxi squad along with forward Ross Colton last Monday. Barre-Boulet played just three games for the Crunch before his promotion, logging three goals and one assist.

He was an AHL All-Star last season, finishing with 60 points in 56 games (27 goals and 29 assists) with the Crunch. Two seasons ago, he was the AHL’s Rookie of the Year following a season in which he had 68 points (34 goals, 34 assists) in 74 games.

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.

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