LOS ANGELES — Looking to add some size to the lineup, Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper inserted rookie D Dmitry Korobov into the lineup for his NHL debut Tuesday night against the Kings.
Korobov, 24, was signed as an undrafted free agent on Aug. 2, 2012, and quickly became one of the top defensemen for Cooper last season in Syracuse of the American Hockey League. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound defenseman was a plus-20 while adding three goals and 22 points in 65 games with the Crunch last season.
In 13 games this season with Syracuse, Korobov had six assists and his plus-7 rating still leads the team.
Korobov was called up on Nov. 12 when D Sami Salo and D Keith Aulie were injured. After being scratched for the first three games following his recall, Cooper felt Tuesday was a good time to give Korobov a look.
“We think he is ready,’’ Cooper said. “He had a great preseason for us and we’ll see what we have in him. So you might as well throw him into the fire now and see what we have.’’
Cooper said Korobov’s strength is his strength.
“We are playing a team that is big, strong and forechecks,’’ he said. Korobov “can kill penalties, block shots and he’s just a big body down there. So I think it would behoove us to have just another defender back there against these guys.’’
In addition to Korobov drawing into the lineup, Cooper added 6-foot-3, 236-pound LW Pierre-Cedric Labrie to the lineup after the winger was scratched for the previous eight games. Labrie, with zero points and a minus-3 rating in 10 games, played in place of B.J. Crombeen, who was scratched for the third time in the past six games.
“We are a team and we have to keep some guys fresh and we have to keep some other guys on their toes,’’ Cooper said.
TXT Subhead: Purcell’s points
RW Teddy Purcell entered Tuesday’s game with one goal and three assists in the previous 14 games, though he had assists in consecutive games and his line has been productive. With 28 shots in the previous 10 games, however, Purcell feels the chances are there even if the points are not piling up.
“I think . . . our line is getting a lot of chances all the time, so I guess it would be more frustrating if you didn’t,’’ Purcell said. “But the last five games we have really started to develop some good chemistry.’’
In the previous three games, after rookie J.T. Brown was called up and put on the second line with Purcell and Valtteri Filppula, the line combined for three goals and seven points to go with 25 shots on goal.
“Would we like to see him get more points? Sure we would, but I think that line with Fill and Brownie has been really effective for us,’’ Cooper said. “More often than not when they are on the ice, they have the puck. So I think (while) we would like everybody to step up, he has been contributing. My concern would be if his play was going down . . . but I feel that he’s been good.’’
No Panik attack
RW Richard Panik felt a sense of relief after notching his first goal Saturday in Phoenix in his 19th game of the season.
“I feel like the pressure is off now and maybe I can play a little bit more loose,’’ Panik said. “Things just were not going my way but I got that first one. Hopefully more are coming.’’
Cooper said he’s encouraged by the way Panik has been playing of late.
“We know what Richard has in him and he has stuck with it here,’’ Cooper said. “He’s probably playing his best hockey of the season.’’
Nuts and Bolts
D Mark Barberio participated in the full morning skate on Tuesday, his first since injuring in arm on Thursday against Anaheim. ... Aulie (upper body) and C Tom Pyatt (broken collar bone) continue to skate with a red no-contact jersey. ... D Andrej Sustr, Barberio and Crombeen were scratched. ... Tuesday’s game was Tampa Bay’s first at Staples Center since a 1-0 loss on Nov. 4, 2010.