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Sunday, Sep 23, 2018
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Emphasis on ‘D’ continues at Lightning face Devils

The emphasis was on defense during Friday's practice and today's morning skate as the Lightning look to reduce not only the number of shots on goal allowed but also scoring chances.

It allowed 39 in Thursday's win against the Red Wings and 33 in Thursday's loss at Buffalo. The night before that, the Lightning allowed only 23 in a loss at Toronto.

Coach Jon Cooper took advantage of Friday's practice – a rare event while the Lightning negotiate its way through the road-trip heavy portion of the schedule – to make adjustments in the defensive zone. Chief among them were clogging the passing lanes to prevent teams for generating Grade A scoring chances.

"That's something that's been a little bit of a sore subject with us," Cooper said after the morning skate. "The one thing about the other night, we did give up a little bit in the shot department but not the Grade As we were giving up say, against LA (47 total shots). So that's a positive sign for us, but we need to get that shot total down. We had a good practice (Friday), working on our d-zone. Hoping it pays off tonight."

The Lightning (39-16-3) plays host to the Devils (29-20-8) tonight at 7 p.m.

New Jersey followed a four-game losing streak with back-to-back wins. The Devils, to the surprise of some, are very much in the hunt for a playoff spot.

Part of the reason is the production from a trio of rookies – C Nico Hischier (11 goals, 37 points), D Will Butcher (28 assists, 30 points) and LW Jesper Bratt (12 goals, 33 points).

Hischier, the top pick in the 2017 draft, has five points in the two-game winning streak.

"Kind of a revamped New Jersey Devils," C Steven Stamkos said. "Usually you know they're going to be really tight checking and defensive. They have that and they have the element of a lot of skill and young players now. They're a really good team. They have a lot of guys who can skate with the puck and burn you. We're looking to play a tight checking game like we did against Detroit and limit their scoring chances."

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