Not only are the Tampa Bay Lightning playing a team that was one of the last four standing in last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, they are playing their second Western Conference opponent of the young season, the Los Angeles Kings.
The opportunity to play the Western Conference (they will see each team twice a year, once at home, once away) is almost like earning extra credit.
“If you don’t get the points, you’re not giving up any points to an Eastern Conference foe,” head coach Jon Cooper said. “If you win, it’s like sneaking the extra cookie when you’re only allowed to take one and you take two.”
“You want to get all the extra points you can playing the Western Conference,” Valtteri Filppula said. “The teams in our division are tough, so you need all the extra points you can.”
With no chance to play any team in the Western Conference in 2012-13 due to the lockout-shortened year, each win against them this year also presents a chance for Tampa Bay to gain ground against a talent-filled Atlantic Division.
“This is where you can add points, as opposed to last year when you’re only playing the Eastern Conference, there was no way to gain ground,” Cooper said. When you fell behind, it was near impossible to come back. Here are the points where you can gain on teams.”
The Bolts will have to work hard for two points Tuesday though, with a well-rounded team like Los Angeles, beginning with netminder, Jonathan Quick down to their depth that spreads throughout their four lines.
Filppula is no stranger to the West, spending his entire career playing as part of it, before joining Tampa Bay.
“They have a big team, they move well, they play very well defensively,” Filppula said. “It’s going to be tough to get goals against them and they have enough skill on their lines to score a lot of goals. They’re a very well-rounded team.”
While the Kings are a good defensive-minded team, the Lightning are transforming their identity to much of the same thing. The Bolts know they must tighten up their game and remain disciplined, along with capitalizing on the opportunities they get versus Los Angeles Tuesday night.
“We have to get enough chances to score more goals than they do,” Filppula said. “Hopefully we’ll get a good start and get a win today.”
Cooper used his extensive AHL knowledge to expand on how talented the Kings are during Tuesday’s press conference.
“Tyler Toffoli, a great AHL player, and he can’t get into their lineup,” Cooper said. “That says something about the depth of their team. They throw four lines at you, their big, they’re strong and this is going to be a big test for us.”
As Cooper continued he caught himself laughing while answering the question as he had somewhat of a learning moment.
“We keep running into these tests,” he said. “This whole league’s a test I’m finding out.”
ODDS ‘N ENDS
Goaltender Ben Bishop was first to exit this ice during Tuesday’s morning skate and is expected to make the start in net against the Kings. It will be his first start since a 7-2 victory against the Florida Panthers last Thursday.
The Bolts are expected to practice Wednesday at 11 a.m. in preparation for a 7:30 p.m. tilt Thursday night versus the Minnesota Wild.
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