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Mathieu Joseph showing versatility across Lightning’s forward lines

Joseph’s ability to move up and down the lineup is one of his biggest benefits to a team that has been plagued by injuries this season.
Forward Mathieu Joseph, pictured during a game against the Sabres Tuesday in Buffalo, has played on every Lightning line this season.
Forward Mathieu Joseph, pictured during a game against the Sabres Tuesday in Buffalo, has played on every Lightning line this season. [ JOSHUA BESSEX | AP ]
Published Jan. 16

TAMPA — Lightning forward Mathieu Joseph has managed to maintain consistency in his game despite moving up and down the lineup this season.

Such was the case Thursday against the Canucks, when Ondrej Palat was sidelined with an undisclosed injury, giving Joseph an opportunity to play on the top line with Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point.

Saturday against the Stars, Joseph was on the move again, skating on the third line with Pat Maroon and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.

Joseph’s versatility is one of his biggest benefits to a Lightning team that has been nagged by injuries this season. His ability to move seamlessly across the squad’s forward lines is a sign that he’s feeling comfortable in his fourth season in the NHL.

“I think we’re a little bit everywhere this year,” Joseph said. “But you know what, I enjoy it. I get to play with some different guys out there and (learn) different ways to play offense and defense.”

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Joseph, 24, has played on every line and with every forward on the Lightning’s active roster this season. Before Palat’s injury, Point and Kucherov missed significant time, prompting drastic adjustments to the lines.

“Jo’s a pretty versatile player,” coach Jon Cooper said. “You can play him up and down the lineup. ... He can keep up, he can make some plays, so it’s good to have guys like that.”

The chemistry isn’t instantaneous when Joseph hops onto the ice with his linemates for the evening. It usually takes a shift or two to get a feel for how the line plays and how he can use his speed to contribute.

“I get to know how other players are playing and their tendencies,” he said. “For me, personally, it takes some time. I try to adapt, but at the same time it’s hockey out there.”

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The chemistry perhaps came a little quicker Saturday as Joseph skated alongside Maroon and Bellemare. Joseph and Bellemare play together on the top penalty-kill unit.

Their familiarity showed on the group’s second shift of the night. Maroon brought the puck away from the Dallas net and passed to Mikhail Sergachev at the blueline. Sergachev shuffled the puck to Bellemare at the point. Joseph tipped Bellemare’s shot on net, but it was stopped by goaltender Anton Khudobin.

“You just try to play your game and you just try to play to your strength and try to sustain structure and do what the coaching staff is asking and, ideally, we’re just trying to win and you’re trying to help the team win,” Joseph said. “Obviously, there’s adaptation here and there depending on who you’re playing with, but at the same time, you want to play your style of game and bring what you can bring to the table every shift.”

After the 3-1 win over the Stars, Cooper said the Lightning are “hoping” to have Palat return to the lineup for Tuesday’s game against the Kings. Cooper expects to know more after the team skates on Monday.

If Palat is available, it’s possible Joseph could return to the fourth line, sliding alongside Ross Colton and Taylor Raddysh.

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“It’s been fun going up and down,” Joseph said. “Obviously you like consistency, but I’m glad I can be the guy sometimes to be versatile and kind of jumping from line to line when need be.”

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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