WASHINGTON — The Lightning don’t yet know how they plan to rotate rookies Boris Katchouk and Taylor Raddysh in and out of the lineup, but they are committed to giving both adequate playing time.
After Raddysh started the first two games of the season, Katchouk made his NHL debut Saturday night against the Capitals.
“There’s guys you’re looking to grab spots and you’re hoping guys aren’t gonna lose spots, but we’ve got to get these guys in and see what they can do,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.
The Lightning are carrying both players because they believe they’ll benefit from being at the NHL level even on nights when they don’t see game action by being around the team. They have little left to prove at AHL Syracuse.
“He gets after it for us,” Cooper said of Katchouk. “He gets himself engaged, he can win puck battles, he’s good around the net. He’s got a little grit to his game, which we like. He’s proved it in the American League. He’s been one of those guys that just progressed all the way up and now it’s his turn to get in and it’s always an exciting time to get your first game.”
Katchouk, who had his mother, one of his brothers and godfather at his debut in Washington on Saturday (another brother couldn’t attend because his son was born Friday), won a spot on the Lightning roster with his two-way game and even played on the penalty kill.
Of the four players battling for the final roster spots in the preseason, Katchouk arguably made the best case.
“I am a 200-foot player that can contribute everywhere on the ice,” Katchouk said. “So I’ve just got to play my game and everything will fall into place.”
Both Raddysh and Katchouk have benefitted playing on the fourth line with veteran center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, whom Cooper said adds a calming influence.
“When their world is spinning around them, he’s the guy that can calm them down and it’s been a really good fit for those guys,” Cooper said.
Bellemare said he’s told the rookies to make sure they take in the moment.
“It’s more about letting them experience that, especially the first game,” Bellemare said. “You still have to open your eyes and enjoy this moment. There’s only one first game. Then the situation is more about, ‘We’re going to get a groove going. We need to get our game going and just make sure we play the right way for the team and don’t think about anything else.’ If we play for the team, we will get rewarded with the team.”
NOTE: Lightning defenseman Cal Foote, who opened the season sidelined while recovering from offseason hand surgery, practiced without a red jersey for the first time Saturday. Cooper said he expects Foote to be an option in another week, which is a good sign for the Lightning after losing defenseman Zach Bogosian for four to six weeks after Tuesday’s opener.
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