Head coach Dominique Ducharme confirmed Jake Evans will draw Kotkaniemi, who wore gray in Monday morning practice. Ducharme added that Alexandre Romanov and Brett Kulak will draw as a third pair of defense instead of Erik Gustafsson and Jon Merrill.
During the morning training of the team, Evans centered a line with Paul Byron and Artturi Lehkonen Online Rushes, while Kotkaniemi skated as an extra.
“It’s nothing against (Kotkaniemi) or anything but we have depth and we have options,” said Ducharme, who added that he spoke to the center to explain the decision. “Again, it’s not a punishment… sometimes, as a hockey player, you face those moments.
“He’s a great team guy and understands the situation even though no one wants to sit down. “
Kotkaniemi, 20, has five goals and eight points in 19 playoff games. He collected one assist in three games against the Lightning and was down-2 in Friday’s 6-3 loss in Game 3.
Third overall in the 2018 NHL Draft, Kotkaniemi had five goals and 20 points in 56 games during the regular season.
Evans dressed in Game 2 last week against the Lightning for the first time since suffering a concussion in Game 1 of the team’s second round series against the Winnipeg Jets on June 2. He scored one goal in five playoff games.
Romanov, who played 54 games as a regular season rookie, will only play his second game of the playoffs on Monday. Kulak has appeared in 11 playoff games, although he has only played one since the start of the third round.