The Lightning (17-6-2) begin a four-game homestand tonight against the visiting Sharks (14-8-2), hoping to shake the funk that has seen it lose four of its last six games, including three of four on the recent road trip.
“We got to get back to being a motivated hockey team,” C Steven Stamkos said. “We have to play with fire and an edge.”
Part of the slump can be attributed to the lack of scoring from the big two – RW Nikita Kucherov and C Stamkos. Both have cooled off during the six-game stretch, though they remain one-two in the league in scoring – Stamkos with 37 points (11 goals, 26 assists) and Kucherov with 36 (17 goals, 19 assists).
Stamkos said the hot start that he and Kucherov enjoyed is unusual. He said there was some luck involved, where everything puck they shot seemed to go in. He also said teams have adjusted to them, knowing if you stop those two you have a good chance of beating the Lightning.
Kucherov, now second in goals in the NHL behind Alex Ovechkin (18) hasn’t scored a goal in his last six games. He does have three assists in that stretch, one each in his last two games.
Stamkos broke a five-game skid without a goal Wednesday at Boston. He has just one assist in the six-game slide but still leads the league in assists with 26, one ahead of Josh Bailey of the Islanders.
F Cory Conacher is in the lineup tonight in place of F Cedric Paquette, who drew a one-game suspension for boarding Boston’s Torey Krug.
F Ryan Callahan participated in the morning skate. D Braydon Coburn did not. Both did not skate in Friday’s practice.
The lines during the morning skate were:
Vladislav Namestnikov, Stamkos, Tyler Johnson
Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point, Kucherov
Alex Killorn, Yanni Gourd, Conacher
Callahan, J.T. Brown, Chris Kunitz.
The defense pairings were:
Victor Hedman-Andrej Suster
Mikhail Sergachev-Anton Stralman
Slater Koekkoek-Dan Girardi.
Andrei Vasilevskiy will be in net.
The Sharks beat the Panthers, 2-1, on Friday in Sunrise for their third straight win, including the first two games of this four-game road trip.