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Friday, Dec 19, 2014
Tampa Bay Lightning

Bolts notes: Connolly gets chance to spark offense

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RALEIGH, N.C. — When Brett Connolly received a call-up last month, it was because of the uncertain injury status of Tampa Bay Lightning captain Marty St. Louis.

After one game and nine minutes playing on the fourth line, Connolly was sent back to Syracuse in the American Hockey League.

This time around, however, Connolly figures to get more minutes and more of an opportunity.

The Lightning called up the 19-year-old on Thursday and will insert him into the lineup on Friday against Carolina. Connolly took rushes during Friday’s morning skate with C Tyler Johnson and LW Ondrej Palat.

In addition to putting Connolly on the third line, the Lightning bumped LW Alex Killorn up to the top line with Steven Stamkos and St. Louis, while LW Ryan Malone will start the game with Valtteri Filppula and Teddy Purcell. Rookie Richard Panik will skate with Nate Thompson and B.J. Crombeen.

In the past three games, the Lightning scored seven goals, with four coming from either Stamkos or St. Louis. Johnson and Palat were the only other forwards to record a goal in that span.

“Aside from scoring two goals on the first three shots against Florida (on Sunday), we’ve pretty much been a little stagnant for the last five-plus periods,’’ Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said of scoring two goals in those five periods. “So, you just want to get a little bit more speed and skill up there and see how things work out.’’

With the circumstance of Connolly’s recall different this time around, the sixth overall pick in the 2010 draft figures to be around for more than just one game and expects to be put in more situations to provide some offense.

“I know that they don’t want me up here playing the minutes I was playing the last time I was up,’’ Connolly said. “But I’m just going to try to come up here and play the way that I play, keep building on the things that I have been doing.’’

In six games with Syracuse this season, Connolly has just one assist while being double shifted in many games. But Lightning officials think Connolly has played better than the stat line shows.

“The last time we brought Connolly up here we didn’t really give him a fair shake; he didn’t get a ton of ice,’’ Cooper said. “I think he has played really well in the minors, he just doesn’t have the statistics to show for it right now. But getting him up here, I think it’s just going to give our team a little jump.’’

Barberio back in

D Mark Barberio will also be inserted into the lineup while making just his third appearance of the season.

The rookie played opening night in Boston on Oct. 3 when Sami Salo was unable to play, but did not get back into the lineup until Oct. 26 when he dressed as one of seven defensemen. Against Carolina, however, he will be in the regular rotation on the blue line.

“I thought the last game he played, I thought he was really good and I thought that was a good sign because he had a little time off and then stepped right in and contributed,’’ Cooper said. “He deserves to be in and I like his jump, somebody else that brings a little offense jumping into plays, to shoot the puck and contributes in that kind of area.

“We have to start getting our shot totals to go up. We can’t sit here and languish in the teens and think we’re going to keep winning hockey games.’’

Nuts and Bolts

G Ben Bishop will start in net against Carolina, and though G Anders Lindback is expected to start on Saturday against St. Louis, Cooper did not commit to splitting up the back-to-back nights. ...LW Pierre-Cedric Labrie, D Keith Aulie and D Andrej Sustr are scheduled to be scratched. ...Carolina will start G Justin Peters.

eerlendsson@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7835

Twitter: @erlendssonTBO

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