SAN JOSE Steven Stamkos will make just the third appearance of his young career tonight at HP Pavilion when the Sharks host the Lightning.
Stamkos, the NHLs leading goal scorer with 20, was asked his thoughts of the Sharks after the morning skate.
Obviously, San Jose is arguably one of the best teams in the NHL for the past five or 10 years, it seems, said Stamkos, who has a goal in each of his first two games in San Jose. Theyre always up at the top of the Western Conference standings and they have some really talented players on the front end and the back end.
Its a game where the defensive game is going to have to be almost perfect in order to give ourselves a chance to win. We need to stay out of the penalty box. Theyve got great offensive weapons, and its attention to detail like in playoff hockey that is going to be important for us tonight.
KURZ: Sharks-Lightning, what to watch
Lightning head coach Guy Boucher has been shuffling his lines frequently lately, trying to spark the 13th place team in the Eastern Conference. With winger Martin St. Louis likely unavailable due to injury, Boucher has generally kept Stamkos and Vinny Lecavalier on separate lines to balance out his attack.
Against the Blue Jackets on Saturday, though, Boucher ended up putting Stamkos and Lecavalier on the same line with winger Dana Tyrell. They generated a second period goal from Stamkos that ended up being the game-winner in a 3-2 victory over the Blue Jackets.
Dont be surprised to see Stamkos and Lecavalier together on the ice if things arent going the Lightnings way early.
Weve got three guys that are scorers. The other guys, you know, are secondary scorers. When youre missing one of them, there are only two left, so obviously if you feel like the lines are not producing I have a tendency to not wait too long and try to get something going, said Boucher. Last game, thats what we did. Stamkos and Vinnie looked good together, and thats something to keep in the back of my mind.
The Lightning have come under fire a bit this season for their 1-3-1 defensive system, most notably when the Philadelphia Flyers exposed a non-existent forecheck during a nationally televised game in October. Click here if you need a refresher on what happened in that game, courtesy of our friends at NBC.
Stamkos said on Wednesday morning that the Lightnings sometimes sleep-inducing style of play has been unfairly criticized.
I think a lot of it got blown out of proportion a little bit with that Philly game that was on Versus. If no one had brought that up, no one would be talking about our system as much, he said.
A lot of teams play that trap style in the neutral zone when they cant get a forecheck. For us, we have a very quick team and we like to utilize our speed. When we cant get in on the forecheck and create pressure, then you drop back. Weve done that now for a year and a half and its proved that it works, in the playoffs last year, especially. We had a pretty good run.
Sharks head coach Todd McLellan will approach the Lightning the same way he does every other team.
I think they get a knock sometimes. Theyre an aggressive team; theyll come after you. There are other times where theyll sit back. Were not going to change the way we play, he said.