TAMPA (FOX 13) - Unlike the Tampa Bay Lightning, the New Jersey Devils don't have offensive threats on all four of their lines. The Devils’ offense is driven by one guy: Taylor Hall, who was noticeably absent from New Jersey's morning skate at Amalie Arena.
But the Lightning are well aware of his abilities and his 39 goals that equal Nikita Kucherov's season total.
"Yeah, is there going to be an attention paid to him, no question,” said Lightning head coach Jon Cooper. "On the other side of things, we're not playing Taylor Hall. We're playing the New Jersey Devils. He's just a big part of it."
Keeping in Taylor contained tops the Lightning's list, but a close second is finding a way to rattle their new starting goalie, Keith Kinkaid, who was also missing from New Jersey's optional skate.
Kinkaid comes into his first playoffs with the hottest hand. He's gone 16-2-1 over this last 20 starts, which is the best in the league.
"Yeah, he's played pretty well,” offered Steven Stamkos. "I think all the teams that get to the playoffs, usually a big reason is goaltending."
This a matchup of two teams that weren't in the postseason a year ago. Still, the Lightning hold a strong advantage in experience. For the Devils, this is their first playoff appearance in six years.
"Experience is good, let's be honest,” added Cooper. "Regardless of however you're getting it. I'd rather have it than not. In the end, it's what you do with it."
With home ice advantage, the Lightning need to win game one to keep their edge.