Ottawa Senators at Tampa Bay Lightning game preview

TV: FOX Sports Sun

Time: Pregame coverage begins at 7 p.m.


TAMPA, Fla. — After nearly four years since being fired by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Guy Boucher returns to face his old team Thursday.

Boucher enjoyed his first NHL head coaching job with Tampa Bay when he was hired by Steve Yzerman at the start of the 2010-11 season, promptly leading the Lightning to within a victory of reaching the Stanley Cup Final, falling in seven games to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference finals.

Less than two seasons later, Boucher was fired and replaced by Jon Cooper, who led the Lightning to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.

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The two coaches, who were part of the Lightning organization together for two-plus years, now face off with Boucher’s resurgent Ottawa Senators having a chance to put another nail in to the disappointing season for the Lightning.

It would be a positive way to end what Boucher knows will be a day filled with emotions and memories.

“It will be weird, it will be different,” Boucher told the Ottawa Citizen. “When you’ve invested a lot in somewhere and people are still there, whether it’s just the Zamboni guy or the security people walking in … I think it will be fun. Positive. But it will be a little weird, too, because it has been so long.”

What’s fresh in the Senators’ mind is the poor defensive showing put forth in Tuesday’s loss to the Florida Panthers, allowing six goals, many of them because of sloppy play.

“Our structure has to be much better than (Tuesday) night,” Chris Kelly told the Citizen. “I’m not saying anything that all of us don’t know. They’re a talented team and if we give them time and space and we’re not defending well, it makes for long nights.”

The Lightning are hoping to make it a long night for Ottawa to help turn around what has been a long season for Tampa Bay.

Coming off consecutive deep playoff runs, the Lightning continue to be mired in mediocrity near the bottom of the standings in the Eastern Conference. Tuesday’s regulation loss to the Bruins dropped Tampa Bay to 14th place in the conference standings.

But sitting only six points out of a wild-card spot, Tampa Bay knows they still have the chance to turn around what has been a disappointing season to this point.

“We have to be more consistent,” winger Alex Killorn said. “We have got to show a bit more fight.”

The consistency level has been the biggest Achilles’ heel for Tampa Bay this season. The Lightning have won consecutive games only once since Thanksgiving, and that was before Christmas. And it’s not just from game-to-game, it’s from period-to-period, as was the case against Boston.

So the coaching staff went back to basics Wednesday, putting the players through a series of drill concentrating on situational play — encompassing all facets of the game from power play, 4-on-4 and 3-on-3 and even ended it with a “sudden death” shootout scenario.

“There are so many situations . . . there is nothing wrong with having a little reset in those areas and we’ve played a lot of them lately,” Cooper said. “I think we were getting away from some things strategically that were costing us. So you can’t just concentrate on once facet of the game, we have to make sure everybody is on the same page.”