BUFFALO, N.Y. — The third game of the season will see some lineup shuffling from Lightning head coach Jon Cooper.
The changes are not necessitated by injury or even poor play. Rather, it’s an effort to keep players from being on the sideline for too long to start the season.
So, D Keith Aulie and RW Tom Pyatt will make their season debuts against the Sabres, while D Andrej Sustr and RW Richard Panik will be scratched. Getting Aulie and Pyatt into the lineup means everybody on the current roster will have appeared in at least one game to this point.
“I think guys will be switched out because of performance-based and guys will be switched out just because we need to get other guys in or it’s a match up thing,’’ Cooper said. “We look into a lot of different variables and I wouldn’t read into much to the guys who get switched in and out here early on.’’
Aulie will slot into the right side on defense alongside Eric Brewer, while Pyatt will join the second line skating at right wing with Valtteri Filppula and Alex Killorn.
For Aulie, moving to the unfamiliar side of the ice — he normally plays on the left side — will offer a different perspective.
“It is a little bit different,” Aulie said. “You have to get used to it, but it’s fun. It’s a new challenge and I’m interested to see how I feel over there.”
Pyatt, who had been a regular in the lineup the previous two seasons, said not playing the first two games was a different feeling for him.
“It’s not something that I pictured when I was getting ready during the summer but (with) the depth that we have, we have a lot of good players between the forwards,’’ he said. “I think it’s good for everyone. Everyone stays competitive and you have to play well if you want to stay in. I’m just excited for the chance.’’
In addition to the lineup changes, Cooper also shuffled the line combinations a bit, moving RW Teddy Purcell in place of Panik to play with C Tyler Johnson and LW Ondrej Palat. Purcell started the first two games on the second line with Filppula and Killorn.
“Sometimes (if) things aren’t rolling right for them, it’s good to sometimes break up the family,’’ Cooper said of the Palat-Johnson-Panik line. “That line hasn’t had a lot of puck possession, and with Teddy it’s like a yo-yo on his stick. He can create some space for people, so we’ll see how it works. It’s Game 3, so we are trying different things out.’’
By all accounts, Sustr has handled himself well in the first two games this season, including stepping into a top-four role in the season opener when D Sami Salo was a late scratch due to injury. But Cooper doesn’t want to rush Sustr, the 6-foot-8 free agent signee out of the University of Omaha-Nebraska.
“He’s fast tracking since he’s only played four NHL games in his career, but you also don’t sit here and anoint him an every-dayer,” Cooper said. “He’s an every-dayer on our team. He’s an almost every-dayer in our lineup. And in the not too far future, he will be in every-dayer in the lineup. He has all the skills and capability to do it.’’
Sustr understands the situation and will use the time off to his advantage.
“I do understand, I’m a rookie in this league I’m just getting started,’’ Sustr said. “There are eight of us (defensemen), so obviously there’s going to be some rotation going on that is just going to benefit our team in the long run. So, I’m not disappointed or anything. I just take it as it is and will keep working hard.’’
Nuts and Bolts
G Ben Bishop, who stopped 37 shots in Saturday’s shootout victory at Chicago, will start in net for the Lightning. ...Buffalo G Ryan Miller, who missed Saturday’s game with a groin issue, participated in Tuesday’s morning skate, but Jhonas Enroth was the first off the ice, generally the indicator as to who will start. Sabres’ coach Ron Rolston did not announce who would start in net. ...RW Marty St. Louis needs one point to pass Bobby Orr for 94th place on the all-time NHL scoring list.