TAMPA — When Lightning coach Jon Cooper gave the forward line of Ross Colton, Boris Katchouk and Taylor Raddysh the off-the-cuff nickname of “the kid line,” it stuck.
But they aren’t really kids. Colton is 25; Katchouk and Raddysh are 23. They weren’t fast-tracked to the NHL. They dutifully served their time in the AHL, developing tight friendships with each other along the way before earning promotions to the Lightning.
“I can’t take credit for this line,” Cooper said, “but I heard on the bench from (center Brayden Point), he said, ‘The oldest kid line in the league.’ "
Whatever they’re called, their play is drawing praise in the locker room.
The three were separated for several weeks when the Lightning were forced to shuffle the lineup because of injuries and coronavirus issues. Colton was moved around the most. But the trio was reunited five games ago, and the three picked up where they left off: getting aggressive on the forecheck, establishing zone time and creating scoring chances.
“They’ve actually played extremely well when they’ve been together,” Cooper said. “Injuries and COVID have just changed our lineup quite a bit. But with (wing Nikita Kucherov) coming back now and us staying relatively healthy for the forwards, it’s good for us to keep those guys together. They’re all buddies, and they play really hard for each other.”
Colton had the first two-goal game of his career in the Lightning’s 7-1 win over the Sharks on Saturday night — and was one nice Adin Hill save away from a hat trick — giving him four goals in the past four games. After scoring two goals in his first 30 games this season, Colton has six in his past 10.
“I feel pretty confident with my game,” Colton said. “Obviously, goals and points are awesome for me, but I don’t like to look too much into that. At the start of the season, I thought I was playing really well, but the bounces weren’t going my way, and I kind of just didn’t really care. It was just like if the team’s winning and I’m doing what I need to do to help us get two points at the end of night, that’s awesome for me.
“But I just feel like right now, our line’s playing really well. We’re just bringing energy. I can’t say enough good things about (Katchouk and Raddysh), both of them. They’ve been awesome for me. We’re good buddies off the ice, and the chemistry translates out there.”
Colton started the scoring for the Lightning on Saturday. Closing in on the goal from the left side, he centered a passed aimed at Raddysh approaching the far post, but instead the puck hit off an opponent and was redirected into the net.
Colton scored his second goal cleaning up a loose puck that hit off Raddysh late in the third period.
Colton’s line was the one that played well in a 5-1 loss to the Ducks on Friday, generating a team-high six scoring chances in 5-on-5 play. Colton scored the Lightning’s only goal on a power play. Cooper picked that line to start Saturday, and Colton’s first goal came on its second shift.
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“I thought they were our best line (in Friday’s) game,” captain Steven Stamkos said. “Despite the lack of success we had as a team, I thought they were the bright spot. … Kudos to that line for playing well again (Saturday) to get us rolling.”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieintheYard.
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