Bruins Present Good End-Of-The-Season Test For Bolts
That is what the Tampa Bay Lightning organization can now be called in the post-Martin St. Louis era.
It can also be seen as addition by subtraction and a perfect opportunity for the Lightning to display its new identity that encompasses exactly what the Boston Bruins promise to deliver.
Associate coach Rick Bowness calls it the "Ryan Callahan-style" of play.
"The Bruins have a lot of great players," Bowness said. "They're very structurally sound, very well coached, have great goaltending, are difficult to play against and you have to work very, very hard."
Saturday's tilt is not only the type of game that Tampa Bay has to win, but it is the type of game that would work wonders for the Lightning locker room.
"It can turn things around," Callahan said. "A win against these guys is an emotional win and can set us off on the right track."
Now that the Bolts have shaken off the nerves that stirred feelings of transition and excitement Thursday, they look to do rebound from the loss with their new-found style.
That includes Callahan, who after his debut, left an entire coaching staff confident in his skillset.
"He plays a big man's game," Bowness said. "He's just a hard-nosed kid that goes hard to the corners, hard to the front of the net and is very difficult to play against."
While head coach Jon Cooper said the Bolts need more players with his gritty play, one player who adds a similar type of edge, Radko Gudas, will not be in the lineup with a lower body injury.
"Gudas will be a guy that's missed," defenseman Matt Carle said. "We'll need to step up as one and try to fill his shoes. We just want to come out and play as physical as we can.
"We can really use our speed to our advantage too. That's one thing we have over most of the team's in this league."
With the point margin for being in or out of the playoffs getting smaller and smaller the most important thing is that Tampa Bay starts playing consistently better games that have gotten them as far as they have this year.
"We shouldn't look at it as an end-all, be-all, as far as a win," Carle said. "But the games coming down the stretch are going to get harder and playing a good game and coming out with two points would be huge for us right now."
It can also be the catalyst of good things to come during the home stretch of their campaign.
"We need some wins," Bowness said, "To take it to another level."
KUCHEROV SCRATCHED FOR A HEALTHY REASON
Since recording four points in five games from January 19 to January 30, Nikita Kucherov has just one assist and is a minus-4.
"He's a highly skilled rookie that hasn't found the net for a little bit," Bowness said.
With the physicality that Boston brings it is not a bad choice by the Bolts coaching staff to let him observe a game from the press box.
"There isn't a whole lot of room out there for him," Bowness said. "So if there is a night that he can sit out and watch, this is the game. It honestly is better in the big picture to sit back and watch."
That is exactly what the Lightning did with Steven Stamkos during his rookie year in 2008 when he watched a few games from the press box as part of the education process.
OTHER ODDS 'N ENDS
- Goaltender Ben Bishop will start between the pipes.
- Defenseman Keith Aulie draws into tonight's lineup, while forwards B.J. Crombeen and Ryan Malone join Kucherov as the healthy scratches as the Bolts go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen.
- Bowness noted one line change: Ondrej Palat will be skating with Valtteri Filppula and Ryan Callahan.