Gourde, Yanni

NHL Game Night: 10-21-17 Penguins at Lightning

This feels different.

PIT-1
TB-7

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed just 1 goal on 29 shots for the victory. He's been lights out all season, but lately he's been putting together the stats to match. Really want to terrify an opposing NHL GM? Remind them Vasiy's only 23 years old. You're welcome.

First Period
1:36 TB Kucherov (9), (Hedman, Stamkos)(PP)
14:16 TB Stamkos (3), (Namestnikov, Kucherov)(PP)
19:59 TB Gourde (1), (Coburn, Point)

Second Period
0:30 TB Point (4), (Palat, Gourde)
5:58 TB Stralman (1), (Sergachev)
7:12 TB Kucherov (10), (Stamkos, Killorn)

Third Period
10:32 TB Sergachev (3), (Stamkos, Namestnikov)(PP)
18:18 PIT Guentzel (3), (Rust, Letang)(PP)

Steven Stamkos, Vasilevskiy, and Nikita Kucherov were the game's three stars.

I wasn't able to watch the game, so rather than comment on the particulars of this game I want to frame the performance of these first nine games of the campaign and offer some overall perspective.

The Tampa Bay Lightning missed the playoffs by one point last season partly because of injuries, partly because of a bizarre goaltending situation, but probably most of all because the team just didn't seem to have the maturity to approach every game with the necessary urgency. After several years of success, the club seemed to think its bona fides alone were necessary to win hockey games, often discarding good habits and taking shortcuts on the way to being dead last in the Eastern Conference in February before a late season charge nearly punched their postseason ticket. Fresh off that disappointment the Lightning rebuilt their leadership council this season with Stamkos and Ryan Callahan returning from injury and Dan Girardi and Chris Kunitz added into the mix in free agency. Still, through the first two games against the Florida Panthers, this team didn't look like it had learned its lesson as it headed into a games against league royalty like Washington and Pittsburgh that looked like colossal landmines on the schedule.

Seven games later the Lightning are 7-1-1-0. This feels different.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you tonight's drubbing of the defending Stanley Cup champions alone means the Lightning are ready to hoist the hardware themselves. Certainly, an objective observer will point out Antti Niemi hasn't exactly cloaked himself in glory in either of his encounters with the Lightning this year. But, with wins against a bevy of other quality opponents and a team that seems to have found a steely eyed determination and cold blooded professional, it's hard not to consider the Lightning as one of the early season contenders from the East. The only times I've seen this from the Lightning were the second half of the '03-'04 season when that team followed their leadership council of Dave Andreychuk and Tim Taylor all the way to a Stanley Cup, and the 2011 playoff run where Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis applied what they had learned from that run and came within an eyelash of winning it all before going down in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals to Boston. The current Lightning core never quite seemed to have the maturity and experience to fully grasp the level of intensity it takes to really and truly be great in all three zones day in and day out. Close, at times? Sure. But, it took the embarrassment of last season and the realization they've probably reached about the midpoint of their Stanley Cup window to get to this point. Now, they look like a team willing (and fully able) to do what it takes. This feels different, and I like it.

Slater Koekkoek had 1 hit in 11:15.

Yanni Gourde had 1 goal, 1 assist, and was +2 with 2 penalty minutes and 4 shots. He was also 33% on 9 draws. It was just a matter of time. If he's putting up 4 shots a night, he's a 20 goal scorer this year, I think.

Gabriel Dumont had 2 shots and 2 hits in 12:18. He was also 38% on 13 draws.

Jake Dotchin was +2 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 3 hits in 12:52.

Mikhail Sergachev had 1 goal and 1 assist and was +1 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 16:56. Now we're getting close to the workload I think he needs to get to for the Lightning to really hit the higher end of some of its season's goals. When you're in a game that has nearly 40 minutes of garbage time, clearly there's no better time to let a young horse like Sergachev get plenty of reps. He did well with them, I see.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-19-17 Lightning at Blue Jackets

Let there be kittens!!!

TB-2
CBJ-0

Andrei Vasilevskiy posted the 43 save shutout, his first of the season. The shot totals allowed were high, but I think the Lightning were good at limiting the quality scoring chances Andrei actually faced, with many of those shots coming from the perimeter or from really bad angles. When the good chances did come, I thought Andrei's positioning looked flawless and it just didn't seem like there was any way Columbus was getting anything tonight. Vasilevskiy's performance was so strong he even overcame the jinx of the TV broadcast flashing a graphic prematurely awarding him the shutout with 33.7 seconds still left in the game.

First Period
17:48 TB Sergachev (1), (Kucherov, Namestnikov)

Second Period
15:37 TB Sergachev (2), (Kucherov, Stamkos)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Vasilevskiy, Mikhail Sergachev, and Nikita Kucherov were the game's three stars.

Kind of an odd game. If all you saw was the box score, you'd see that 43-21 shot disparity and assume Vasilevskiy had to stand on his head. I didn't really feel like the game was ever really out of the Lightning's control. They were pretty efficient in the first 40 minutes and throughout the game really limited Columbus to throwing the puck toward the net from low percentage areas. Now, mind you, that's a recipe for surrendering some greasy goals and getting bitten by puck luck. You don't want to make a regular habit of that. But the Lightning still, I thought, had the lion's share of the real scoring chances.

Tampa Bay clinches the successful opening segment of the season and at least one insurance point already in the bank. Two game left to go in this opening ten game segment and the Lightning have a chance to bear down and really build up a nice glut of insurance points in the standings right away.

Yanni Gourde had 4 shots, 1 hit, and was 50% on 4 draws in 18:04. That was his best game of the season, and he did everything tonight but find the back of the net. I was surprised he didn't get third star. I love the volume of shot attempts for him (7). If he keeps that up, the production will follow shortly.

Gabriel Dumont had 1 shot, 3 hits, and was 57% on 7 draws in 12:06.

Jake Dotchin was +1 with 1 shot in 12:35. I'll be interested to see how the Lightning use him whenever they switch back to a six defenseman alignment. I thought he played well tonight.

Sergachev had his first two NHL goals and was +2 with 3 shots and 1 hit in 12:49. He's putting up numbers, which I wasn't expecting and might be a little bit of a mirage. Either way, I think any inkling of sending him back to juniors (which, I never thought was a real possibility) seems out the window at this hour.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-17-17 Lightning at Devils

Budaj's rusty start costs the Lightning a point.

TB-4
NJ-5 (SO)

Petr Budaj allowed 4 goals on 34 shots and 1 goal on 3 shots in the penalty shot session for the Shootout loss. His first and third goals allowed were pretty putrid, and indicative of a guy who hasn't really played competitive hockey in about a month. He started to shake off the rust in the Second Period and got a lot sharper as the game wore on. There's a cautionary tale to the coaching staff about sneaking him a few more starts in there somewhere.

First Period
2:45 NJ Stafford (2), (Hischier, Butcher)
7:33 TB Namestnikov (3), (Kucherov, Stamkos)
12:21 TB Palat (3), (Johnson, Sergachev)(PP)
16:19 NJ Palmieri (2), (Hall, Henrique)(PP)
19:08 NJ Gibbons (3), (Santini, Wood)

Second Period
14:02 TB Kucherov (8), (Stamkos, Sergachev)
17:23 TB Stamkos (2), (Gourde)

Third Period
15:54 NJ Stafford (3), (Hischier, Severson)(PP)

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
TB- NONE
NJ- Palmieri

Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos were the game's second and third stars.

The result stinks, but honestly I thought this was a strong performance by the Lightning. Against a young, fast team the Lightning seemed to get stronger as the night wore on even though they were on the downside of the back-to-back. All things being even they probably deserved the second point, but when your goaltender surrenders soft goals, you tend to lose in the end equation no matter how well your skaters play.

Tampa Bay now sits on 11 points with 3 games to go in the opening segment of the season, and are thus just 1 point away from clinching being on playoff pace for this segment.

Yanni Gourde had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots in 18:50. He was also 38% on 8 draws. Strong forecheck to produce the Stamkos goal. Still needs to shoot more.

Jake Dotchin had 1 shot and 3 hits in 13:37. Thought he had some struggles with New Jersey's speed, but didn't make any really awful mistakes from it.

Mikhail Sergachev sneezed out 2 helpers and was +1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 13:38. Life is good when the coaches shelter you on shifts with the Kucherov line in front of you.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-16-17 Lightning at Red Wings

Lightning ride Vasilevskiy to glory.

TB-3
DET-2

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 31 shots for the victory. The team was flat as a pancake the first 6-7 minutes of the game and Vasilevskiy absolutely held them in the game and made several timely saves over the course of the game to allow them to get the 2 points. The big gunners will get the attention, but Vasilevskiy's been the truth so far this year.

First Period
9:15 TB Johnson (3), (unassisted)(SH)
10:56 TB Kucherov (6), (Hedman, Stamkos)(PP)

Second Period
2:30 DET Abdelkader (2), (unassisted)(PS)
16:02 DET Green (1), (Abdelkader, Tatar)

Third Period
1:47 TB Kucherov (7), (Stamkos, Namestnikov)

Nikita Kucherov and Tyler Johnson were the game's first and third stars. Vasilevskiy was robbed.

The Lightning flat out didn't play to their standard tonight. The team came out flat and their breakouts looked patently terrible. It wasn't to the level of the debacle in Sunrise, but the sloppiness passing the puck and the weakness and indecision was palpable and concerning. Thankfully, they were able to engineer a road win with goaltending and special teams. I'm happy they were able to get the 2 points and I fully understand you have to win some games like this over the course of 82 games because you're not going to have your A game every night, but Cooper needs to make it clear that slipping by playing like that isn't acceptable. They've showed us they're better than this.

With 4 games to go in this 10-game segment of the campaign, the Lightning need just 2 points for minimum playoff pace. As noted after the last game, this is a prime opportunity for the Lightning to build up a huge cushion right from the jump this season, and after missing the postseason last year it's a chance the club should leap at.

Slater Koekkoek had 2 penalty minutes and 2 blocked shots in 7:01. His most memorable moment was taking a penalty, so that's not good.

Yanni Gourde was -1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 16:46. He was also 29% on 7 draws. In some ways this might've been his best game of the year. He looked incredibly strong on the puck in the offensive zone for such a small man.

Jake Dotchin had 1 shot and 1 hit in 13:50. I feel like he's getting closer to being the player we saw down the stretch of last year, which is needed.

Mikhail Sergachev had 1 shot in 8:37. Team low in shifts. He'll make a decent play here and there, but can't seem to string two or three of them together right now. I would've hoped he'd have flashed a little bit more at this point, but it's early. The Lightning really need Sergachev or Koekkoek to progress significantly between now and March though if they want to be ready to achieve some of their bigger goals.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-14-17 Blues at Lightning

Lightning kick ice in honor of Inaugural Team Night.

STL-1
TB-2

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed just 1 goal on 29 shots for the victory. His lone blemish was a quick release seeing eye shot through a double screen. We'll forgive him.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
8:20 TB Johnson (2), (Sergachev, Point)(PP)

Third Period
6:27 TB Kucherov (5), (Stamkos, Namestnikov)
16:37 STL Tarasenko (4), (Schwartz, Schenn)

Vasilevskiy, Nikita Kucherov, and Steven Stamkos were the game's three stars.

Different kind of game against a different kind of team. The shot totals were fairly even but I still felt like the Lightning carried the balance of play throughout this one and deserved the 2 points. Three quality wins in a row put the Lightning at 4-1-0-0 to start the campaign, including an unblemished record on home ice as they try to re-establish Amalie Arena as a fortress for the club. That puts them at 8 points halfway through the opening segment of the season. They just need 4 in the next 5 games to stay on minimum playoff pace, which means they have an opportunity over the next 5 games to potentially build a nice little cushion of points right out of the gate this year.

Slater Koekkoek had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 8:42.

Yanni Gourde had 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 17:38. More shots, Yanni.

Jake Dotchin had 2 hits and 2 blocked shots in 16:26.

Mikhail Sergachev had a helper and 2 shots and 3 hits in 10:27. It was a calmer performance tonight and he earned his second NHL point after getting awarded a helper after the fact in the Lightning's opener.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-12-17 Penguins at Lightning

Bow down to your new blueline overlord.

PIT-4
TB-5

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 40 shots for the victory. It's been like watching a new age Grant Fuhr early in this season. The stats don't part your hair when you read them, but he makes the big saves to help the team get W's.

First Period
6:07 TB Koekkoek (1), (Kunitz, Stralman)
13:46 PIT Guentzel (2), (Letang, Rust)
19:59 TB Hedman (1), (Killorn, Kucherov)(PP)

Second Period
3:59 TB Stamkos (1), (Namestnikov, Killorn)(PP)
8:58 PUT Sheary (3), (Ruhwedel, Niemi)
9:49 TB Kucherov (4), (Coburn, Killorn)
14:24 PIT Rust (1), (Guentzel, Maatta)(PP)
17:55 TB Koekkoek (2), (Killorn, Johnson)

Third Period
10:01 PIT Hunwick (1), (McKegg, Kessel)

Slater Koekkoek, Alex Killorn, and Kikita Kucherov were the game's three stars.

It wasn't the same tour de force performance that the Lightning put together against Washington, but the Lightning looked the better team 5 v 5 all night long against Pittsburgh and deserved the result tonight. Had they stayed out of the box consistently, they surely would've made this a lot easier on themselves, and even with some lapses of discipline there were several moments in the game it looked like it was teetering on the edge of the Lightning getting a 3 goal lead and making it a laugher. Against that team, that's impressive. Back-to-back wins against Washington and Pittsburgh are absolutely impressive, and leave little doubt the Lightning are legit early in this campaign.

4 games into the season, the Lightning have 6 points. 6 more points to collect in the next 6 games to make this a successful segment of the season.

Koekkoek had his first 2 NHL goals and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 9:44. The first goal, which was deflected by the Pens and a bit of puck luck, looked like it took a 200 pound gorilla off of Slater's back. The second goal looked like sheer exuberance as Koekkoek emerged from the box to patiently deposit a 3-on-1 chance on his backhand. Might be time to give him a game or two with a little more IT to see how he handles it.

Yanni Gourde had 3 shots and was 50% on 4 draws in 15:45. I liked that he was shooting the puck more. That will pay dividends in the long run.

Gabriel Dumont was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and 2 hits in 8:59. He was also 33% on 9 draws. Skating's an issue. It just needs to be said.

Jake Dotchin was -1 with 2 blocked shots in 16:45. Little by little, he keeps rounding into form.

Mikhail Sergachev was -1 in just 5:22 of ice time. Sheary snuck behind him off the bench to steal a goal, and it seemed like Sergachev didn't see the ice much after that. With Koekkoek playing a nice little game, I wouldn't be shocked in the Lightning gave Mikhail a game off to watch and re-center before throwing him back into the fire.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-9-17 Capitals at Lightning

Out of the ashes, Tampa Bay issues a statement.

WSH-3
TB-4 (OT)

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 26 shots for the victory. The stat lines not pretty, but a handful of his saves had to be in order to allow the Lightning to keep contact and get the win.

First Period
16:42 WSH Backstrom (1), (Burakovsky, Oshie)
18:05 WSH Oshie (2), (Carlson, Backstrom)(PP)

Second Period
5:28 TB Killorn (1), (Point, Coburn)
7:49 WSH Oshie (3), (Backstrom, Kuznetsov)(PP)
18:09 TB Kunitz (1), (Stralman, Paquette)

Third Period
10:46 TB Kucherov (3), (Killorn, Stralman)

Overtime
3:08 Point (3), (Kucherov, Stamkos)(PP)

Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn were the game's first and second stars.

Every man in that lineup up and down deserved a star. That was Lightning hockey, and it was Lightning hockey at a level I don't think we've seen in a regular season matchup against the Capitals in forever. Coming off an embarrassing performance in Sunrise, the Lightning outskated, outpossessed, and outplayed Washington for the bulk of 63 minutes of hockey, allowing them to overcome some negative puck luck in the First Period to get the job done. And, it wasn't just the top lines or the top pairs. Every man all the way down to the checking line got it done tonight. Cedric Paquette even played like a beast tonight. Kunitz. Callahan. You name it. This team had a different look in their eye coming out of, one would presume, some kind of team meeting this morning, and they wouldn't be denied tonight. This isn't hype, it's truth: if they play with that level of determination, attention to detail, and hustle every night, they're going to leave a lot of opposing teams in their wake as they plow through this season. The back checking pressure of the Lightning forwards in the neutral zone alone tonight... well, Nigel's going to need to smoke a cigarette while he puts this film together. It's that good.

7 games left in segment 1 of the campaign: 8 points left to go.

Slater Koekkoek played 3:09 as the 7th d-man. If you blinked, you missed him.

Yanni Gourde had 2 penalty minutes in 14:44. I need some more SOG's, Yanni.

Jake Dotchin had 1 shot, 3 hits, and 4 blocked shots in 12:01. He's slowly rounding into form.

Mikhail Sergachev had 2 shots and 1 hit in 12:40. Mixed bag. Egregious turnovers in the First Period. Darned near potted a regulation winner in the Third Period.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-7-17 Lightning at Panthers

Travesty in Sunrise. And, no, I don't mean that the building was half empty on their opening night.

TB-4
FLA-5

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 5 goals on a staggering 48 shots for the loss. Without Vasiy, the Panthers may have scored 10 goals tonight.

First Period
3:30 TB Kucherov (2), (Stamkos, Namestnikov)
4:48 TB Namestnikov (2), (Stamkos, Kucherov)(PP)
12:18 FLA Dadonov (1), (Ekblad, Huburdeau)

Second Period
1:46 FLA Bjugstad (1), (Dadonov, McCann)
13:57 TB Point (2), (Palat)

Third Period
6:06 FLA Sceviour (1), (Haley, Barkov)
6:42 FLA McCann (1), (Bjugstad, Brickley)
8:34 FLA Trocheck (1), (Vrbata, Barkov)
14:12 TB Johnson (1), (Gourde, Point)

The score line doesn't depict what a squash this was, at all. Even the 48-30 shot disparity doesn't depict it, given half of the Lightning's shots came in the final frame. The team's top line pounced on Florida early to stake the club to a 2-0 lead and looked within an eyelash of making the game a laugher, and then took their foot off the gas and the whole thing went sideways. They spent most of the rest of the game looking slow and confused as they surrendered turnover after turnover and scoring chance after scoring chance until garbage time came and they began the quixotic quest for the improbable comeback. It's not good enough. In 120 minutes of hockey this season the Lightning have only played well in about... 35... of those minutes. It's unacceptable. I don't like the lower two lines. I don't like two of the three pairings. I don't like that the club overall doesn't seem to have a clue what to do with Jon Cooper's new tweaks to his system. Consider this a first test for the team's new leadership council, because a night like this is a rude awakening, and I'll be damned if I have to sit through another night where "Panther Territory" is celebrating like they just won the Stanley Cup (pathetic).

Yanni Gourde had a helper and was +1 with 1 hit in 14:42. He's played well, but he needs to translate that into shots on goal for himself to take another step.

Jake Dotchin was -2 with 5 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 1 hit in 13:25. Good Lord, I hope this isn't the beginning of Dotchin turning back into a pumpkin.

Mikhail Sergachev was -1 with 1 shot and 2 blocked shots in 16:54. Tonight he got roughed up physically and mentally. Not going to lie. He had some nice moments but he also got targeted by Florida and had some bad turnovers to go along with some dubious decision-making from the point on the power play. Mind you, I don't know he should be getting power play time at this juncture of his development, but that's another matter.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-6-17 Panthers at Lightning

Still...

FLA-3
TB-5

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 36 shots for the victory. He was clearly the difference in the game, allowing the Lightning to overcome an anemic opening 40 minutes while Roberto Luongo surrendered a couple of soft goals at the other end of the rink.

First Period
6:33 TB Palat (1), (Point, Hedman)

Second Period
0:25 TB Point (1), (unassisted)
12:21 FLA Brickley (1), (Petrovic)
17:47 FLA Pysyk (1), (Vrbata, Trocheck)

Third Period
0:59 TB Namestnikov (1), (Stamkos, Killorn)(PP)
6:38 TB Kucherov (1), (unassisted)
14:30 FLA Huberdeau (1), (Dadonov, Yandle)
19:46 TB Palat (2), (Point)(EN)

Brayden Point, Anton Stralman, and Ondrej Palat were the game's three stars.

Really a very mixed bag on the night, with slightly more good than bad. The team looked flat and got outpossessed by a wide margin in the first 40 minutes of the game, and it took some great play by Vasilevskiy and some soft play by Luongo to keep the Lightning from getting run out of their own barn. I think it starts from the backline where I simply didn't like the pairings with Jake Dotchin being scratched. If Jake's still paying his penance to Coach Cooper, I hope it's paid in full soon, because playing Girardi top pair isn't sustainable and playing Sustr at all isn't either. Sustr, in particular, did not cloak himself in glory in this game.

Through the first two frames, I thought only the Palat/Point/Gourde line showed up to the rink, but they were joined by the top line of Namestnikov/Stamkos/Kucherov that started to come on in the Third Period. I'm really heartened to see Brayden Point have a good opening game. With Tyler Johnson off the scoring lines and nearly invisible, the Lightning's ace up their sleeve is Point. I suspect he can have a breakout season and help give the Lightning the two balanced lines they need.

So, all in all, I think the pieces I think the Lightning need to really have a strong season (Vasilevskiy, Point, and to a lesser extent the returning Stamkos) had a good opening night with the exception of the exiled Dotchin. Hopefully the Lightning can get him back and playing as well as he did at the end of last season, and that'll push Girardi down to third pair with Coburn and Sustr to the press box, which I think will soothe a lot of defensive ills.

Yanni Gourde was +1 with 2 hits in 13:36.

Gabriel Dumont was 67% on 6 draws in 9:01.

Mikhail Sergachev was +1 with 2 penalty minutes and 4 shots in 16:03. I like that he's being mentored on a pair with Stralman and tonight was mostly what I'm hoping to see from him as a rookie. The Lightning need quality minutes more than hefty offensive production, and while I hope that ultimately Sergachev lands closer to 18 minutes on a game to game basis, this was a good start to his Lightning career.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Preseason Game Night: 9-30-17 Lightning at Predators

Lightning close preseason in style.

TB-3
NSH-2 (OT)

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 28 shots for the OT victory.

First Period
5:49 TB Killorn, (Stamkos, Kucherov)(PP)
10:46 NSH Salomaki, (unassisted)(SH)(PS)

Second Period
13:51 TB Killorn, (Kucherov, Hedman)(PP)

Third Period
16:07 NSH Sissons, (Josi, Fiala)

Overtime
1:02 TB Kucherov, (Stralman, Stamkos)

Nikita Kucherov was the game's first star.

Not going to say this game wasn't without its flaws, but after several mediocre performances against Florida, this team needed a result to cap the preseason. That's what they got tonight, via the play of their biggest guns.

Slater Koekkoek had 1 blocked shot in 13:48.

Yanni Gourde had 2 hits in 14:50.

Gabriel Dumont was -1 with 3 shots and was 80% on 5 draws in 8:25.

Jake Dotchin had 2 penalty minutes, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:48 in his preseason debut off suspension.

Mikhail Sergachev was -1 with 3 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 20:33.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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