The Tampa Bay Lightning dropped their second to last preseason game Thursday night 5-3 at the hands of the Florida Panthers. These two teams will meet again on Saturday night in Sunrise for the final game for both teams of the preseason.
Thursday was probably the worst outing for the Lightning so far in the preseason despite having a mostly full squad. This game was a back and forth game in the first two periods before Florida sieged control and dominated in the third. Tampa Bay had a really rough time defending in their own end and were outshot 19-4 in the third and Florida claimed three goals on the way to a 6-3 victory.
Nick Paul on PP1
Following the departure of Alex Killorn this summer, the Lightning find themselves looking for a new net-front person on the power play. Killorn has occupied the spot right in front of the blue paint for the majority of the time over the last few years. A few guys came into camp as potential suitors for this role but it has been Nick Paul getting the looks first in the preseason with the top power play unit.
Paul recorded an assist in the second period while setting up Steven Stamkos from his office on the power play. Paul looks like a great suitor for this sort of role because of his size alone. If he is able to continue making plays like this with Stamkos, Paul could be the man for the job. Last season alone, Killorn accounted for 12 points while on the power play and there is no reason to expect that Paul cannot put up similar numbers if he gets consistent chances on the top power play.
Spot Still up in the Air
The Lightning look to have one lineup spot still up for grabs with one game to go in the preseason. Four guys seem to be in position for the spot with Alex Barre-Boulet seeming like the possible lead candidate. Strong cases are there to be made still for Waltteri Merelä, Austin Watson and Gabriel Fortier.
None of the four really seemed to put themselves ahead of the pack Thursday night. Fortier did record a nice assist on a faceoff win on the Lightning’s first goal of the night from Victor Hedman. Despite this, Fortier is probably the least likely of this group to land the spot of the 12th forward come opening night but there is a decent chance he can make the team as an extra forward like he did last year coming out of camp.
Kucherov Shaken up Late in Third
With just under a minute to go in the third period, Nikita Kucherov ended up leaving the game and going down hallway to the Lightning dressing room. Kucherov looked to have gotten twisted up while shooting the puck into the Panthers end. It looked like there was no contact made with anybody on the play and ended up just tripping and colliding with the boards.
Head coach Jon Cooper added after the game that he thinks Kucherov is “going to be ok”. For a team already facing a bit an uphill battle with injuries, this will be something worth keeping an eye on.