TAMPA, FL.- Following Thursday night’s game against St. Louis at Amalie Arena, coach Jon Cooper said that it “almost feels like a road game.”
What he meant is that his Lightning had little more than a layover at home before hitting the road again. Saturday night’s game at Boston commences a five-game trip over the course of eight days. When combined with their trip to Minnesota and St. Louis that preceded Thursday night’s home match with Blues, the Bolts are in a stretch of eight games in eight cities in 14 days.
It can be a daunting stretch, especially given the injuries that have hit the team. The Lightning, however, certainly have what it takes to endure.
“This is where you have to rely on the veterans and what you instilled in this team over the past few years,” said Cooper, following a 4-2 win over the Blues that improved the Lightning’s mark at Amalie to 8-3-2.
One of the veterans, defenseman Victor Hedman, scored the game’s final two goals and added an assist for his fourth multi-point game of the season and eighth multi-goal game of his career.
“Heddy does it all and he can take over a game at any moment,” said Anthony Cirelli, whose power play goal at 4:26 of the third period gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead.
Hedman likes how his team played Thursday, and generally likes how things are going for a club that ended the night third in the Atlantic Division with 30 points in 22 games.
“We are back to our habits of playing smart hockey and playing quick,” he said, following the game. “That is the same way we have to approach this upcoming road trip. We have to go on the road and keep getting these points.”
The trip will be the Lightning’s second longest this season. They head west on a six-game journey in March that is part of a stretch in which they play 10 of 11 on the road.
For now, the focus is on a trip that commences Saturday night in Boston followed by a flight to Philly for Sunday night’s game. Games at Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa will follow.
The trip will be a huge opportunity for youngsters Alex Barre-Boulet, Boris Katchouk, Taylor Raddysh and Gabe Fortier, who played in his second game Thursday. The quarter has unquestionably done very well to this point.
“They developed in the American League and now they are finally in the NHL,” said Cooper. “Clearly, with some of the injuries that we have had, we needed these guys and they’ve done great.”
Fortier was called up when Mathieu Joseph was injured (lower body) at Minnesota last Sunday. Any injury seems all the more problematic given the long-term absences of Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point, though the aforementioned rookies have made life easier.
Fortier, who made his NHL debut Tuesday night at St. Louis, has been playing on a line with Anthony Cirelli and Alex Killorn.
“He works so hard, you see his hockey sense and he’s always in the right spots and making some great plays out there,” said Cirelli, after Thursday’s game.
It is such an effort the Lightning will continue to need from each of their young players. The road trip will serve as a good test, indeed. Passing tests, though, is something they have done very well to this point.
Android Users, Click Here To Download The Free Press App And Never Miss A Story. It’s Free And Coming To Apple Users Soon.