Boucher: Thompson Thriving With Increased Responsibility
The physically grueling nature of hockey pretty much guarantees that NHL teams will feel the sting of the injury bug at one point over the course of the season. Unfortunately for the Lightning, the injuries have been coming in very close succession. This team has faced an uphill climb since the loss of Steven Stamkos and losses to the defensive corps and other key forwards have sent them into survival mode. Those healthy enough to keep going are shouldering more responsibility. Center Nate Thompson has been playing some of his best hockey in an expanded role and desereves recognition for his efforts. (Photo/Susan Ferlita)
Injuries have shaken up the usual line combinations the Lightning put on the ice in a big way. Thompson started the season on the fourth line but has found his way up to the third line, out of necessity. He’s not putting up an insane amount of points, but his hard work definitely makes a difference. A mainstay in the circle, he has a 50.3 faceoff percentage. He also sees steady work on the penalty kill unit where his defensive skills have shined.
Prior to Stamkos’ injury on November 11th, Thompson’s ice time was hovering around 10-11 minutes per game. In the weeks since then, he’s up around 16-17 minutes. During the most recent home stand, he centered the starting line with J.T. Brown and Teddy Purcell on the wings. He’s not going to set the score sheet on fire, but he is continuing to play well with the added responsibility. A favorite of former head coach Guy Boucher, Thompson has clearly earned the trust of Jon Cooper as well.
Nate has found a niche with the Lightning that he didn’t have with the Boston Bruins or New York Islanders. He’s versatile, consistent, and has grown into one of the veteran leaders in the locker room. There’s a lot of 44 jerseys around the Tampa Bay Times Forum so the fans have taken notice. It might be one of the reasons the crowd cheered so loudly when he scored with 1.1 seconds left in the second period of last Saturday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets.
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