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Lightning try to give Cooper victory in debut vs. Devils

9:53 AM, Mar 29, 2013   |    comments
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(Sports Network) - The Tampa Bay Lightning will try to get their new head coach a win in his NHL debut when they host the New Jersey Devils in Friday's game at Tampa Bay Times Forum.

The Lightning fired Guy Boucher on Sunday and the club's head coaching duties fell to assistants over the last two games, but the franchise officially named Jon Cooper as the team's new head coach on Tuesday.

Cooper takes over for a Tampa Bay team that is six points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 15 games left on its schedule, but he believes that's enough time to get this club into the postseason.

"Until the final buzzer goes off in the last game of the season, I'm coming to make the playoffs," Cooper said at his introductory press conference on Tuesday.

Although he was at the Tampa Times Forum for the presser on Tuesday, Cooper wasn't present on the bench in that night's game against visiting Buffalo, which lost a 2-1 decision to the Bolts.

Steven Stamkos and Martin St Louis each set up one another's goals, helping Tampa Bay snap a three-game losing streak. Mathieu Garon needed to make only 13 saves to pick up his fourth win of the season and first against a team other than Carolina.

"We worked extremely hard, made plays and executed," Stamkos said. "It was a great win for us. It's always nice to get back in the win column."

The Lightning began a three-game homestand on Tuesday and won for the third consecutive time on home ice. Tampa Bay is 9-7-1 as the host this season and will complete the stay in Tuesday's game against Florida.

The Devils, meanwhile, will try to avoid a second straight loss when they visit the Lightning on Friday.

New Jersey played its first game since star winger Ilya Kovalchuk went down with a shoulder injury and wound up losing Monday's shootout decision at Ottawa. Mika Zibanejad scored the winner in the fourth round of the shootout to help the Senators take a 3-2 win over the Devils, who are seventh in the Eastern Conference. two points ahead of the Rangers and Islanders.

In the fourth round, Zibanejad faked to the backhand and lifted it high over Martin Brodeur, while Ben Bishop sealed the win with a glove save of Andrei Loktionov.

Loktionov and Marek Zidlicky each lit the lamp while Brodeur stopped 12 shots for the Devils, who are 2-2-2 over their last six games. Zidlicky's goal tied the score at 2-2 early in the third period to eventually send the game to overtime.

"I was real proud of our effort as a team tonight," said New Jersey head coach Peter DeBoer. "We only got one point, but these points count when you're fighting for a spot."

Kovalchuk, who is second on New Jersey this season in goals (10) and points (27), suffered an injury to his right shoulder in Saturday's win over Florida and is expected to miss the next 2-to-4 weeks.

Devils defenseman Bryce Salvador (lower body) and forward Stephen Gionta (upper body) are questionable for Friday's game.

New Jersey will complete a three-game road trip Saturday at Florida and is 5-6-5 as the guest this season.

The Devils and Bolts have split a pair of meetings in New Jersey so far this season and Friday's game in Tampa will complete the season series. Jersey has won five of seven meetings overall and has taken two straight an eight of the past nine in Tampa.

The Sports Network

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