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After venting about Lightning, Kucherov gets his wish: Stamkos on his line

Lightning Maple Leafs Hockey

Tampa Bay Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov (86) is congratulated for his goal on the Toronto Maple Leafs by teammates Steven Stamkos (91) and Vladislav Namestnikov (90) during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Toronto, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT


Whether Nikita Kucherov’s complaints about his linemates were overblown or if the frustration was very real, it seems like he’s getting his way, at least early on in Tampa Bay Lightning training camp.

Kucherov spoke of how well he clicked with Steven Stamkos before the Lightning star went down with his latest hard-luck injury. He’s back with Stamkos (and Vladislav Namestnikov) so far, and the two key Lightning forwards provided glowing reviews of each other, as Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

The comments border on the adorable at times, to be honest.

“I think sometimes we think the same way,” Kucherov said. “You can see it on the ice. I always know where ‘Stammer’ is going to be, and I’m sure he knows where I’m going to be. It’s just so much fun playing with him.”

It’s probably fair to say that Kucherov was a little harsh about his linemates in 2016-17. While it’s true that there was a lot of uncertainty in that regard, injuries forced head coach Jon Cooper’s hand. And, hey, you could do worse than Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson, his two most frequent forward partners.

Still, this could be the right move for the Lightning, and not out of appeasing Kucherov.

Stamkos faces a challenge in producing after recovering from his latest health issues, and it’s plausible that he won’t be truly 100 percent for a while, if not maybe a full season. Having Kucherov on his line to open things up and make plays could be crucial for Stamkos and the Lightning in general.

Especially if other forwards like Johnson get healthier and show they can carry lines if the Bolts decide to go a little top-heavy.

Of course, lines change often, and the pre-season isn’t always the most reliable forecast for future combinations. It might not be such a bad idea for the Lighting to keep those two together, anyway.