One game in, and the Tampa Bay Lightning already have to juggle their forward lines. The team announced Tyler Motte would be out indefinitely after moving him to the injured reserve list following his early departure from Tuesday’s win over Nashville.
At practice today before their road clash with Detroit tomorrow night, the Bolts previewed new line combinations that will be a reality for the foreseeable future.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Juggling is fun
In the opener, Motte was paired with Brandon Hagel and Anthony Cirelli, and for the 4:43 of 5 v 5 time they got together prior to Motte having to leave after taking a puck to the hand, the line was effective.
The group had six shot attempts while only giving up two shot attempts, neither of which were on the net. They were also credited with a rush attempt while not surrendering any against them.
But rather than take Austin Watson or Alex Barre-Boulet, who just got called back up, and insert them into Motte’s spot in order to keep everything else the same, the Tampa Bay Lightning rolled out the following lines at practice today:
Line 1: Connor Sheary – Brayden Point – Nikita Kucherov
Line 2: Brandon Hagel – Anthony Cirelli – Steven Stamkos
Line 3: Michael Eyssimont – Nick Paul – Austin Watson/Alex Barre-Boulet
Line 4: Tanner Jeannot – Luke Glendening – Waltteri Merelä
The fourth remains untouched, which had a decent enough night on Tuesday. Watson and Barre-Boulet, whichever one plays on a given night, will slot into the third line, while Sheary is the one to get the nod into the top six forward groupings.
All of this makes sense, and it’s kind of what we predicted during the offseason before the emergence of Motte, who was a late signing by the Lightning after Josh Archibald told the team he wouldn’t be playing this season.
Long term, we expect Jon Cooper to want to put Stamkos back with Point and Kucherov. But for now, the Lightning still have a very capable top-six grouping as they navigate Motte’s injury to start the season.