Lightning looking healthier than advertised
Brandon, Florida — The Tampa Bay Lightning aren’t as beat up as they appeared to be a few days ago.
The only players not on the ice for Tuesday’s practice were Steven Stamkos (blood clot) and Anton Stralman (leg fracture), both of whom will miss the entire first-round series against the Red Wings.
Victor Hedman (upper body), Ryan Callahan (undisclosed), Nikita Kucherov (lower body) and Tyler Johnson (upper body) were on the ice and look to be ready for Game 1.
Johnson, in particular, was a pleasant surprise for the Lightning.
Johnson hit his head against the boards Saturday after being shoved by Montreal defenseman Greg Pateryn and his status was unclear.
Though looking ready to play, Johnson stopped short of saying he’d be ready.
“I feel pretty good, getting better every day and that’s all that really matters,” Johnson said. “I’m still trying to decide (whether he’s playing). It’s up to the coaching staff and see how I feel tomorrow.
“I felt OK. There are things I want to feel better for.”
As for Pateryn’s borderline hit, Johnson didn’t say much.
“It doesn’t do me any good to comment,” Johnson said.
Johnson scored six of his 13 playoff goals last season against the Red Wings in the first round, proving to be an offensive force.
But Johnson suffered through an injury-plagued 2015-16 season, scoring 14 goals in 69 games, and rarely showing the spark he did in last spring’s playoffs.
Jon Cooper, Lightning coach, called Johnson a game-time decision for Game 1.
“He looked pretty good, we’ll see how he feels,” Cooper said. “It’s going to be up to him and the doctors.”
Fans in Detroit have been critical of the Red Wings’ power play in Detroit, but in Tampa the situation has been even worse.
The Lightning ranked 28th in the NHL on the power play, and without Stamkos’ wicked one-timer the situation doesn’t get any promising.
Tampa practiced with new units Tuesday, highlighted by the return of forward Jonathan Drouin.
The third overall pick in the 2013 draft, Drouin left the team and was sent to the minor leagues at one point this season, disappointed with his lack of playing time.
But with Stamkos hurt and Drouin playing so well in the minors, Drouin was brought up at the end of the regular season.
With new personnel, communication will be crucial.
“Power play is such a big part of the game,” Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison said. “Whenever you’re out there and get the opportunity, you want to make sure you give it your all and communicate with everybody and make sure everybody is on the same page.”