MONTREAL — Lightning leading scorer Ondrej Palat was back on the ice on Saturday and all indications are he will be back in the lineup for Game 3 Sunday night against the Canadiens at the Bell Centre.
The Lightning and Palat both said it likely will be game time before a decision is rendered on the matter, but Palat expressed confidence he’ll return after missing part of Game 1 and all of Game 2.
“I feel good,” Palat said after he spent about 30 minutes on the ice in Tampa, where his workout included taking some shots against G Ben Bishop. “We’ll see what happens” on Sunday.
Palat and Bishop have upper-body injuries, Palat’s stemming, he said, from a hit by Columbus D Jack Johnson in the next-to-last game of the regular season.
Bishop is nursing a left arm injury suffered on April 8, and while he has worked out on the ice mostly with coaches each of the past three days, his status for the remainder of the first-round series remains uncertain.
Coach Jon Cooper created a small stir late in Game 2 on Friday when he replaced G Anders Lindback with rookie Kristers Gudlevskis after Tampa Bay fell behind 3-0 with less than 10 minutes to play in the third period. That immediately led to questions about whether Cooper was contemplating a goaltending change heading into Game 3.
Though he didn’t suggest a change in goal was in the works, it also wasn’t denied.
“We were looking for a spark. We needed something and that was it. We will digest this (Saturday night) and go back to work,” Cooper said.
Gudlevskis was asked after Saturday’s optional practice if he was starting Sunday.
Sunday is “game day. We’ll see,” he said.
The scene in Montreal during the regular season is unmatched by any other arena in the league. When it comes to the playoffs, the Canadiens take it up another notch in terms of pregame presentation and atmosphere that’s enough to give everybody in the building goose bumps.
“We can talk about it and tell them about what it’s like, but until you’re there you’re never going to know what it’s like to play in a playoff series in Montreal,” said Dave Andreychuk, captain of the Lightning’s 2004 Stanley Cup team that faced Montreal in the second round. “It will be fun for them to experience it. There’s nothing better than playoff hockey in Montreal.”
The A Team
It’s not just the outcome of the first two games of this first-round series that the Lightning are unhappy with. They’re equally unhappy with the way they played.
From a lack of sustained pressure in the offensive end to breakdowns on defense and in goal, the Lightning have yet to put together a complete game, associate coach Rick Bowness said.
“You’ve got to play the game the right way, with a certain amount of intensity that will give you the opportunity to win the game and that’s where we’re disappointed in ourselves,” Bowness said.
“We haven’t thrown our A game at them yet. There’s been some sporadic play but not 60 minutes of playoff intensity. Montreal has done a great job. They’re very well prepared and they’ve played well, but they haven’t seen our A game yet. Clearly we’re going to have to bring that” Sunday.
A little help, please?
Linemates Ryan Callahan and Valterri Filppula have combined for one point (an assist by Filppula) and a minus-6 rating in the playoffs. That’s not the kind of production the Lightning were expecting out of two of their best players.
“They’re a bit off,” Bowness said. “Our defense has to do a better job of getting them the puck, but they have to do a better job when they get the puck.
“Montreal is doing a good job on them. They’re not giving Val any time to make plays. Ryan plays one way — the puck goes in and he goes to work, but the left winger and the defense have to help them out.”
Tampa Bay signed D Jake Dotchin to a three-year entry-level contract on Saturday after Dotchin’s season with Barrie in the Ontario Hockey League ended on April 13. Dotchin, 20, was a sixth-round pick in the 2012 draft. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound blue liner had career highs with 11 goals, 25 assists and 36 points in 63 games with Barrie this season.
Roy Cummings, Erik Erlendsson