TAMPA — Recently signed free agent C Cody Kunyk hit the ice running for the Lightning this week after making the long two-day trek from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Tampa earlier in the week.
Kunyk participated in a pair of practices and Thursday’s morning skate as he gets a crash course introduction to the NHL, less than a week after his college career at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks ended with a loss in the WCHA tournament. There’s a lot for the 23-year-old to pick up on in a short amount of time, but he hopes to get up to speed quickly.
“I’m pretty cautious, I don’t want to make a fool out of myself or break the rhythm of practice for the other guys,’’ Kunyk said. “I just have to adapt to it and be able to perform on the ice.’’
Kunyk signed a one-year contract that is prorated for this season, which means he will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season. There is no guarantee that Kunyk will get into any of the final nine games of the regular season but that doesn’t mean he won’t get a feel for how things work and have a chance to show off what he can bring to the organization.
“You just get to get in, feel the environment, know where to go building, get to know the players and you just get that much more comfortable and knowledgeable about what is going on when you go into camp next year,’’ Cooper said. “And he might play games, who knows, we may need him, but I just think, not go to in wide-eyed and wet behind the ears, to get all the experiences, so it’s good for him to be here.’’
The power play has been a topical subject in recent days with Tampa Bay scoring a power play goal in five consecutive games and clicking at a 33 percent clip in that span. While the obvious return of C Steven Stamkos had been a factor, Cooper said bringing Stamkos back to the top unit, losing former captain Marty St. Louis while adding RW Ryan Callahan along with LW Ondrej Palat has given the Lightning a different look with the man advantage recently.
“Before we were a little bit more of a perimeter power play,’’ Cooper said. “Now we’re more of a junk-yard dog power play.’’
RW Nikita Kucherov ended his goalless drought on Monday with his first goal since Jan. 19. But even after sitting out seven of eight games and scoring on his second shift, Kucherov said he was more worried about happened on his first shift when he made a mistake that led to Ottawa’s first goal.
“My first shift I made a huge mistake, that’s not really good,’’ Kucherov said. “I don’t know what to say. ... I didn’t feel more confidence (from scoring the goal), but maybe a little more at ease.’’
Kucherov was then asked what it would take to put a smile on his face.
“I don’t know how I’m going to play, but maybe when I play like Stammer (Steven Stamkos),’’ Kucherov said.
Five upcoming Lightning telecasts in April have been moved to Fox Sports Florida, starting with Tuesday’s potential playoff preview against Montreal. The other games that will now switch to Fox Sports Florida are: April 3 vs. Calgary, April 8 vs. Toronto, April 11 vs. Columbus and the regular season finale at Washington on April 13 at 3 p.m.
Nuts and Bolts
C Valtteri Filppula extended his scoring streak to 10 games. ... G Andrey Vasilevskiy, the 19th overall pick in 2012, stopped 41-of-43 shots for Salavat in the Kontinental Hockey League in a 2-1 overtime loss to Barys in the Eastern Conference semifinals on Thursday. Salavat leads the series 3-2 with Game 6 scheduled for Saturday. ... C Jonathan Drouin, the 3rd overall pick in 2013, finished with two goals and four points and was named the first star in an 11-3 victory for Halifax against Charlottetown in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League on Thursday. Halifax, the defending Memorial Cup champion, swept the opening-round series against Charlottetown. ... Tampa Bay scratched D Keith Aulie, D Mark Barberio, RW Richard Panik, C Tom Pyatt and Kunyk.