BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Rookie D Mikhail Sergachev is enjoying life on the right side.
Sergachev, a left shot, has played on the right the past three games, including Thursday's 7-6 win against the Islanders.
It has been a comfortable fit for Sergachev, a skilled puck-mover who often played on the right in juniors with Windsor of the Ontario League.
"I like it," Sergachev said. "You can do different things. Your stick is to the middle always, and you can shoot one-timers from the right. It's just different. Sometimes it's better."
And it can be better for the Lightning, which has a surplus of left-shot defensemen (also Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Braydon Coburn and Slater Koekkoek). If Sergachev plays on the right, Coburn can play on his better side. This gives the Lightning more versatility in its playoff pairings.
Sergachev had a nice pinch along the right boards in the offensive zone that kept the puck in and led to Anthony Cirelli's first-period goal Thursday. It was Sergachev's fifth assist in his past seven games.
"He's more mobile than (Coburn)," said Brian Engblom, the Lightning's Fox Sports Sun analyst and a two-time Stanley Cup champion. "Should give him a different look when he makes his move in the offensive zone. There will be room down the wall to penetrate and create. He's mobile and defends the rush well. The ice opens up for him coming out of the zone if he wants to use it."
Associate coach Rick Bowness, who runs the defense, said it's usually easier for a left-shot defenseman to move to his right, as opposed to vice versa. Anton Stralman, a right shot, can play the left.
The Lightning has liked what it has seen on the right from Sergachev, who also scored on a power play in the second period, his first goal since Dec. 16.
"He's got skill, so he can make puck plays," coach Jon Cooper said. "But it's how you get back on puck retrievals, what corner you're going to, and he's done a good job with that. It helps he's done it before. He hasn't missed a beat going to the other side."
Two days after G Andrei Vasilevskiy passed mentor Ben Bishop for the franchise record for wins in a season (41), coach Jon Cooper tied John Tortorella for the franchise record for career wins with his 239th. Tortorella led the Lightning to its only Stanley Cup in 2004.
Jon Cooper on tying John Tortorella for #tblightning career wins record: "I know what he meant to our organization and the time he spent here, he laid groundwork for guys like me to come in and follow suit. If my name is besides John Tortorella, I feel like that's an honor."— Joe Smith (@TBTimes_JSmith) March 23, 2018
F Anthony Cirelli earned a promotion to the third line for Thursday's game, alongside Alex Killorn and Yanni Gourde. And it paid off, with Cirelli scoring his third NHL goal (in 10 games) on a slick wraparound and adding an assist. This came after Cirelli craftily set up Killorn's winner Tuesday against Toronto.
Cirelli appears to be playing his way into the playoff rotation.
"When you get your first taste in the league, you're kind of running on adrenaline, but then reality sets in, and then the grind sets in," coach Jon Cooper said. "But (Cirelli has) kind of found a way. We've limited his minutes, and you give him a little bit more, a little bit more, and he's just taken advantage of it. He's been really good."
G Andrei Vasilevskiy started. D Andrej Sustr was back in the lineup as Tampa Bay went with seven defensemen. D Jake Dotchin, D Slater Koekkoek, F Cory Conacher, F Ryan Callahan (upper body) and F Cedric Paquette were scratched.