Jake Dotchin a surprise scratch for Lightning opener
Lightning defenseman Jake Dotchin has been paired with Victor Hedman all week, ever since the final preseason game.
The two were partners for the second half of last season, when Dotchin helped balance out the top-four.
That's what makes Dotchin, 23, a surprise scratch for Friday's opener against the Panthers at Amalie Arena. Dotchin was limited to just one exhibition game due to an unspecified team rule violation.
Coach Jon Cooper would only say that with eight defensemen, someone has to sit. J.T. Brown and Slater Koekkoek are the other expected healthy scratches. But this could also mean, if the Lightning is indeed shopping a defenseman (like Andrej Sustr), it's better to play him. So it'll be interesting to see which scouts are in the stands tonight.
"You have 23 guys, 20 get to play," Cooper said. "You've probably heard this answer - it's monotonous - but not everyone is going to play every single night. When your name is called, you've just got to be ready to help us win and that's it."
With Dotchin out, veteran Dan Girardi - making his Lightning debut - is paired with Hedman. Anton Stralman is still with rookie Mikhail Sergachev, Sustr with Braydon Coburn.
"You look all around the league, I don't know if there's a d-core that has stayed completely intact," Cooper said. "Maybe Nashville, but (Ryan) Ellis is hurt. Different guys have got to play and get a different feel for each other. It's Game 1, there's 82 in a season. You hope chemistry comes because we don't know if this is going to stay together the whole time. But you've got a good veteran guuy that can protect the net and you've got a horse that leads the charge out there. For tonight, that's how it's going to go."
Girardi said it should be pretty easy adjusting playing with Hedman, a Norris Trophy finalist last season. "His game is a lot different than mine. He's offense, offense, but is also great defensively. I'll read off him. If he's going, I'll be back to help out."
Both Dotchin and Girardi play the stay-at-home defenseman role, so Hedman thinks he'll adjust.
"(Girardi) is steady, tough to play against, a good first pass," Hedman said. "He's very vocal on the ice. It shouldn't matter who you play with, you've got to do your job and give your team a chance to win."
More from skate: The Lightning lines remained the same, with Namestnikov-Stamkos-Kucherov/Killorn-Johnson-Callahan/Gourde-Point-Palat/Kunitz-Paquette-Dumont... Stamkos said he's not nervous how his surgically-repaired knee will respond in tonight's opener, having been encouraged by the preseason. “I played 4 (preseason) games and felt fine," Stamkos said. "It’s just regular anxiousness and excitement."