TAMPA, Fla. – After playing seven of their first nine games on the road, the Lightning return to Amalie Arena for a four-game homestand that gets underway Tuesday night against Ottawa.
Jon Cooper’s team has won four of its last five, including taking two of three during last week’s trip to the Golden State, to improve to 5-4-0.
“You go on these road trips, which, being in our geographic region, we go on four- and five-gamers and three-gamers,” said Cooper. “If you can pull out more points than games, you’ll put yourself in a really good position if you (also) win your games at home.”
The Lightning opened the swing through California with a loss in L.A. before defeating Anaheim and San Jose. Nikita Kucherov’s goal with 57 seconds left in the third period was the game-winner in a 4-3 verdict over the Sharks on Saturday. The goal extended Kucherov’s points streak to seven games (3-8-11) and made for a winning trip while improved the Lightning’s road mark to 4-3-0.
“I take this as a success,” said Cooper, of the trip. “It’s been a tough start with all these road games we’ve played, so let’s go home and see if we can string a few together now.”
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His team will have the opportunity to do just after playing twice at Amalie in October. With their record above .500 and four games on tap in the friendly confines, maybe the Lightning can build some serious momentum. That can be accomplished, in part, by continuing to apply more pressure in the offensive zone. Too often during the season’s first six games the Bolts were in and out of the zone rather quickly instead of producing multiple chances and keeping the heat on. The tables started to turn the past couple of games.
“I think we can even be better,” said Alex Killorn, who had a goal and an assist in San Jose for his second multi-point outing this season. “We are progressing in the right way. I think we are getting opportunities. You want to be hard to play against and being one-and-done (in the offensive zone) is just too easy, so we have been working on that.”
Since tinkering with different line combinations the first couple of weeks of the season, the Bolts have stuck with a few lines that proved favorable the past few games.
“I think at the start of the season, we’ve been shuffling and kind of just trying to figure out what works,” said Ross Colton, who has been playing with rookie Cole Koepke and nine-year veteran Vladimir Namestnikov. “These last couple games, it’s been nice to get some chemistry going.”
Whatever the case, the uneven play that frequently surfaced the first few games is hopefully a thing of that past. Some home cooking might see to that.
“Obviously, we can’t make excuses and stuff like that, but it is never easy being on the road for that long to start a season,” said Colton, who is 2-3-5 on the season. “For us to find our game and kind of find an identity, hopefully these two wins (in California) are something we can build off and go from there.”
In addition to the Senators on Tuesday night, the Lightning will host Carolina on Thursday, Buffalo on Saturday and Edmonton next Tuesday. The puck drops on the first three games of the homestand at 7:00 and the Oilers at 7:30 to accommodate a TNT broadcast.