No one in the locker room of the Tampa Bay Lightning thought that life without Steven Stamkos was going to be easy. After winning their first two full games without one of the NHL’s best players, they’ve been handed consecutive losses and head coach John Cooper is looking for offense by shuffling his lines up.
Damian Cristodero of The Tampa Bay Times wrote that these were the line combinations during practice this morning:
Teddy Purcell-Valtteri Filppula-Marty St. Louis
Ryan Malone-Alex Killorn-J.T. Brown
Ondrej Palat-Tyler Johnson-Richard Panik
Pierre-Cedric Labrie-Nate Thompson-B.J. Crombeen with Brett Connolly, who had been centering between Killorn and St. Louis, taking turns at wing.
The lineup looks a bit empty without Stamkos, but this is something that the Lightning are going to have to deal with for the foreseeable future. Filppula has picked up his game as of late, as has St. Louis. That still leaves a mighty big hole for the rest of the forwards to attempt to fill.
Killorn has been thrust into a top-six center role with Stamkos on the shelf, but he’s capable of playing at a high level. Ryan Malone can post some points when he’s healthy, and Richard Panik was a goal-scoring forward at the AHL level. Connolly is highly touted as well, but it’s becoming clear that if Tampa is going to get through this Stamkos-less spout, it’ll be because of the youth collectively picking up their games and scoring a bit more than usual.
You’ll always hear coaches talk about how injuries are opportunities. That’s what the likes of Killorn, Panik and Connolly have with Stamkos out.