NHL Preseason Game Night: 9-21-13 Lightning at Panthers

The big boys help keep the Lightning perfect in the preseason.

TB-5
FLA-4 (SO)

Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 29 shots, but did stop 3 of 3 for the shootout "W".

First Period
3:08 TB Malone, (Hedman, Stamkos)
10:34 TB St Louis, (Stamkos, Purcell)(PP)

Second Period
9:40 FLA Gudbranson, (Kulikov)(PP)
11:15 TB Brown, (Salo)
12:10 FLA Kulikov, (Gilbert, Kopecky)(PP)

Third Period
4:14 FLA Butler, (Kopecky, Trocheck)
12:35 TB Stamkos, (Carle)
19:02 FLA Butler, (Gudbranson, Kulikov)

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
TB- Droin
FLA- NONE

Steven Stamkos and Ryan Malone were the game's first and second stars.

Rightfully, youngsters like Brett Connolly have been getting a lot of attention for their play in camp and preseason. Tonight was a reminder that, oh yeah, #91 is still the cat's pajamas. Shaky goaltending from Bishop does merit some concern, but sitting at 4-0-0 in the preseason is nice no matter how you slice it.

Now that the Lightning have run their 4 games in 4 nights gauntlet and made their first two rounds of cuts, the roster is starting to crystalize. Tonight was an opportunity to evaluate, in particular, a bubble player like Dana Tyrell, who got 16:10 of ice time. There's still another round of preseason games to go next week, so nothing is set in stone, but if the roster had to be finalized tonight, I think the team would have some painful decisions to make. Here's how I might set the 23-man roster and lines:

Malone/Stamkos/St. Louis
Killorn/Filppula/Purcell
Palat/Johnson/Panik
Pyatt/Thompson/Crombeen
Labrie/Connolly

Hedman/Salo
Carle/Gudas
Brewer/Aulie
Barberio

Bishop
Lindback

I have a hard time seeing Jonathan Drouin's spot on the team right now given how well Palat, Johnson, Panik, and Connolly have played. It's not that he couldn't play in the NHL this season, it's that there may not be any need to rush him into the show with so many other young players looking ready to step up. There's still a batch of games next week, so there's certainly time for Drouin to make a more definitive statement, but right now I think he's lagging those four other prospects. A veteran like Tyrell also looks to be on the outside looking in.

On defense, waiver eligibility and contractual particulars mean Andrej Sustr would probably have to lap Aulie and Barberio to make it to opening night. No, not beat them by a few car lengths. He'd have to lap them to make it. My guess is the Lightning will roll with that seven in the first half and hope they can do the job. If they can't, they have a more seasoned Sustr as an option to call up and perhaps a healed Brian Lee to give a shot to, as well. If they're in the hunt around the deadline, defense is obviously where Yzerman's attention is probably going to go to.

Of course, one injury here or there completely upsets the apple cart, which is why I should emphasize that there's still time in the process. A week can be an eternity at this time of year.

Box score from Tampabaylightning.com.