After a dominant start that has seen Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov amass an absurd 73 combined points through 25 games, the potent duo will be split up for the Tampa Bay Lightning‘s Saturday night meeting with the San Jose Sharks. Despite still ranking as the top two scorers in the league, the pair has cooled off over the Lightning’s recent six-game slide. Tampa Bay lost only four times through their first 19 contests, but have now dropped another four games in just their last six. With opposing defenders keeping the Lightning’s top line in check during that span—Stamkos and Kucherov have posted just five combined points in those six tilts—head coach Jon Cooper is opting for a new look to spark his squad. That came in the form of Tyler Johnson, who was elevated to the first line alongside Stamkos and Vladislav Namestnikov at Saturday’s morning skate. Kucherov moved to the second line, skating with Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat. “You’ve got to try new things when things aren’t working,” Stamkos told Bryan Burns of TampaBayLightning.com on Saturday. “We’ll see how that goes tonight. A lot of guys played with different line combinations toward the end of the Boston game (on Wednesday), so everyone’s familiar with each other in this room. “We’ve played with all these guys for a long time and have developed chemistry here and there with certain guys. If things aren’t going well, especially offensively, we’ve got to find something that works.” Newly minted first-liner Johnson agreed that a change might benefit the Lightning, helping them avoid putting too much of a dent in their sterling start to the season.
Lightning split up Stamkos-Kucherov duo to spark offence
Sportsnet | Dec 2