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Tampa Bay Lightning continue to make adjustments without Kucherov







by Erik Erlendsson |  @Erik_Erlendsson |  Like us on Facebook
October 21, 2021

TAMPA – With the Lightning offense fizzling in the first week of the season and now one of the top offensive players in the league out for the foreseeable future, an already fluid adjustment period for a championship team in transition became more fluid when Nikita Kucherov hobbled back to the locker room less than a week ago.

Tampa Bay was already showing some struggles to create offense through three games when Kucherov went down and then the power play proved fruitless against the Florida Panthers.

So, with a few days off before the Lightning host the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday, it provides a small window of available practice time to tweak things to prepare for life without Kucherov, however long that turns out to be.

And a potential option unexpectedly became available to perhaps help with that transition.

{mprestriction ids=”1,2″}One day after an 0-for-6 showing on the power play against Florida, which included a 94 second 5-on-3 advantage, the Lightning did extensive work during practice with the power play units.

And it had a different look to it than in Tuesday’s game as they try to find a fit.

“Obviously a lot goes through Kuch so when you take a player out like that I think there’s some settling that needs to be done,” said assistant coach Jeff Halpern, who runs the power play. “Clearly (Tuesday) night we were just on different pages and a little unorganized at times a little bit just on the plays themselves. But it was something that probably should have gone better than it did. And a lot of that goes to the five-on-three and how that set the tone of at least how the power play and the team was concerned. But there’s an adjustment period to it, it’s no different than in the five-on-five play or anywhere else. You just have to find where some of those plays are made and some of those looks come from and everything from the breakouts to the face offs changes when (Kucherov) leaves, and it’ll take some time.”

One of the changes made to the power play for practice on Tuesday included moving Brayden Point to the right circle (where Ondrej Palat played on Tuesday as well as last season), adding Corey Perry to the top unit and putting him in the low post, net front role. Alex Killorn moved to the bumper spot previously held by Point.

Ondrej Palat moved to the second power play unit.

“It’s just a matter of when Kuch is there, you obviously want a left hand shot so he can have an out,” Killorn said. “With a right hand shot (Point) it’s hard for him with a stick to get to that guy. But now that we don’t have Kuch it’ll probably be more plays up top, more shots, and supporting the guys on the half wall which was a big emphasis for us.”

It might be logical to think that when Kucherov was unavailable to play in the previous regular season, putting the same personnel together on the ice for the top power play unit this year would not leave the Lightning discombobulated this year. But that was the case, at least on Tuesday.

Maybe it was because last season the team had time to prepare for life without Kucherov, who underwent hip surgery two weeks before training camp opened in January. This time, the preparation was for Kucherov to be involved for the full season. so losing him just three games into the start of the season likely caught the team off guard.

So, Halpern said they’ve taken a bit of a fresh approach to trying to get the power play on track, which is why they moved personnel around somewhat in Wednesday’s practice.

“I think they all bring something different,” Halper said. “A guy like Brayden Point or Palat or anyone who’s in those spots, they bring different things in different speeds and as a coaching staff, or even as a group, you’re trying to identify what the best options are for their personality. It’s obviously different, the way Kuch approaches it is a different way than anybody else.”

So with three days between games, and two practices (the team received their 2021 championship rings on Thursday), it does offer an opportunity to get on the ice and work on some of those new looks. This is one of only two times between now and the Christmas break that the Lightning only have two games in a week, the other coming between November 7-13.

“We are home here for a couple of days to work on some things, to get some kinks out so early in the season,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “Obviously there’s gonna be some adjustments and some guys moving in and out of positions and especially on the powerplay without Kuch so we’ll work on it. We’re not too concerned. We have guys that can fill in.”

Could one of those players be a familiar face not currently with the team?

The Seattle Kraken placed forward Alex Barre-Boulet on waivers on Thursday, just over two weeks since claiming him off waivers from the Lightning ahead of the start of the season. Barre-Boulet appeared in two games with the Kraken, picking up one assists. As the Kraken continue to get some players back, they had to make roster decisions.

Barre-Boulet is a top-six caliber player and he has a heavy shot from the right circle on the power play, where he made his mark in the American Hockey League with the Syracuse Crunch. With Kucherov expected out until January, at the earliest, reacquiring Barre-Boulet could be a boost as he played on a line with Palat and Point for the final month of last season and saw some time with the pair in preseason action.

Typically, a team that lost a player on waivers have the first right to reacquire him if placed back on waivers, a situation that has occurred in previous seasons. But there are conflicting thoughts on that for this season, with Cap Friendly suggesting that’s not the case and the only advantage a reacquiring team would have is if they put in a claim and bring the player back, and no other team puts in a claim, the player can be assigned to the minor leagues without waivers being required.

The waiver wire hits at 2 p.m. on Friday.



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