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Lightning don’t change much in preparation for back-to-back games against Panthers

Notes | A pair of “Black Aces” from AHL Syracuse join practice, and Brayden Point likely will remain sidelined.
Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (77) collides with Panthers right wing Claude Giroux (28) as goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy watches the loose puck during Game 2. Both teams got a bit of a breather with an extra day off, but will play consecutive games Sunday and Monday.
Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (77) collides with Panthers right wing Claude Giroux (28) as goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy watches the loose puck during Game 2. Both teams got a bit of a breather with an extra day off, but will play consecutive games Sunday and Monday. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published May 21|Updated May 22

BRANDON — The Lightning don’t change much in their preparation when it comes to back-to-back games in the postseason.

Having played 12 back-to-backs during the regular season, the Lightning are used to the challenge of quick turnarounds. They’ll have a chance to close out the Panthers in Round 2 on consecutive days starting Sunday.

“I’ve been lucky enough to be on some teams where you play a lot of them,” forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare said. “You have a routine and you just try to follow it.”

Consecutive games tend to be more taxing on the goaltenders. But for Andrei Vasilevskiy — who never played both games of a back-to-back during the regular season, usually getting spelled by Brian Elliott — nothing changes much in his routine.

“I’m trying to just stay the same since we’re playing a lot of hockey here, just (trying) to take care of my body, take care of my mind, as well,” he said before the second-round series began. “...Why change anything, especially now in the playoffs?”

Vasilevskiy has played in every Lightning postseason game (57 and counting) since 2020.

In between Games 2 and 3 both teams had a day off (Friday) before practicing Saturday at the TGH Ice Plex.

The two-day break came in handy, especially following a physical Game 2 in Sunrise, which featured 24 blocked shots from the Lightning (14 of 18 skaters blocked at least one shot in the 2-1 win).

“I’m pretty sure both teams could use a break because it’s tough playing a back-to-back, even when it’s an afternoon game (Sunday),” coach Jon Cooper said. “It sneaks up on you fast. It’s good to have a little break before that happens.”

‘Black Aces’ join Lightning after Crunch season ends

AHL Syracuse’s season ended Tuesday with a first-round Game 5 overtime loss (3-2) to the Laval Rockets (Montreal’s affiliate team) in the Calder Cup playoffs.

The loss opened opportunities for “Black Aces” (forward Cole Koepke and defenseman Darren Raddysh) to join the Lightning at practice Saturday morning. With no postseason roster limits, teams are allowed to add players from the minors or elsewhere.

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Koepke skated on the third line with Ross Colton and Corey Perry in Brandon Hagel’s spot (Hagel missed practice with a “body maintenance” designation). Raddysh skated on the fourth defensemen pairing with Jan Rutta.

“Unfortunately it didn’t work out for them (in the AHL postseason), but the upside is you do get to have guys around here,” Cooper said. “And when you do have some bumps and bruises, they get to jump right in and not skip a beat, so it’s a great experience for them and it helps us out.”

Loose pucks

• Hagel was one of two absences from Saturday’s practice. Cooper said he “would hope” the Lightning forward is going to be OK for Game 3. Cooper added Brayden Point (lower-body injury) is the only one “probably definitely out.” Cooper said “there’s nothing new” on the Lightning center, who was injured in the first period of Game 7 against the Maple Leafs in the opening round.

• The Lightning are hosting another watch party at Amalie Arena’s Thunder Alley on Sunday. Fans can start setting up chairs as early as 11:30 a.m.

• The Lightning signed forward Jaydon Dureau to a three-year, entry-level contract on Saturday. Dureau played 49 games with the Portland Winterhawks (WHL) this season, recording 66 points (24 goals)

Round 2 schedule

Game 1 — Lightning at Panthers, 4-1 win

Game 2 — Lightning at Panthers, 2-1 win (Lightning lead series 2-0)

Game 3 — Panthers at Lightning, 1:30 p.m. Sunday

Game 4 — Panthers at Lightning, 7 p.m. Monday

Game 5 — Lightning at Panthers, Wednesday (if necessary)

Game 6 — Panthers at Lightning, Friday (if necessary)

Game 7 — Lightning at Panthers, Sunday, May 29 (if necessary)

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

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