Killorn and Barberio thrilled to face hometown Canadiens

For Lightning C Alex Killorn and D Mark Barberio, who grew up in bordering neighborhoods in Montreal's west island, facing the Canadiens in the playoffs is extra special.

"It's really exciting," Killorn said. "A lot of friends and family are going to be watching. I'm not sure how many of them will be rooting for me."

Quipped Barberio: "I've got some family that still won't change."

Killorn said he'd go to a few Canadiens games a season as a kid, and almost always wore the jersey of his favorite player, Saku Koivu, while skating in a nearby park. Barberio said he watched "pretty much every game" on TV with his dad, and feels fortunate he could be on the same ice with his role model, Canadiens D Andrei Markov.

Both say traveling to Montreal for Games 3 and 4 will be a huge thrill, considering what the town is like during playoff-time.

"In Montreal, the Canadiens are the biggest thing there," Barberio said. "Hockey is like a religion."

Said Killorn: "Crazy, crazy atmosphere. The whole town stops."

The two are prepared for desperate ticket requests, knowing they won't all be supporters. …

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VIDEO: Tom Jones previews Lightning-Canadiens

Times sports columnist Tom Jones previews the first-round playoff matchup between the Lightning and Montreal Canadiens in this video feature.

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Palat, Filppula return to practice

Ondrej Palat, who has a team-best 59 points, sustained an upper-body injury Friday against Columbus.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Ondrej Palat, who has a team-best 59 points, sustained an upper-body injury Friday against Columbus.

The Lightning got some good news on the injury front Tuesday, as two of its top scorers, LW Ondrej Palat and C Valteri Filppula, returned to practice.

Filppula (lower body), tied with Steven Stamkos for a team-best 25 goals, was hurt Thursday against the Flyers and hasn't played the last two games. Palat (upper body), with a team-best 59 points, was hurt Friday against Columbus.

While we won't an official update from coach Jon Cooper for another hour, the fact both players were at practice is a good sign they may be able to play for Wednesday's Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Canadiens.

The only two players not on the ice were goalie Ben Bishop (upper body) and Ryan Malone, who was arrested on Saturday.

The Lightning says there are still "a few" tickets remaining for Wednesday's Game 1, and more for Game 2 Friday.

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Anders Lindback is NHL's first star of the week

Anders Lindback was 3-0-0 with a 0.67 goals-against average, .975 save percentage and a shutout this past week.

AP photo

Anders Lindback was 3-0-0 with a 0.67 goals-against average, .975 save percentage and a shutout this past week.

Anders Lindback is the NHL's first star of the week ending Sunday. The Lightning goaltender was 3-0-0 with a 0.67 goals-against average, .975 save percentage and a shutout.

Here is the announcement from the league: …

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Lightning-Canadiens playoff schedule (updated with TV)

Lightning forward Alex Killorn tries to get a puck past Canadiens goaltender Carey Price.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Lightning forward Alex Killorn tries to get a puck past Canadiens goaltender Carey Price.

Here is the schedule for the Lightning and Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs:

April 16: at Tampa, 7 p.m., Sun Sports, CNBC

April 18: at Tampa, 7 p.m., Fox Sports Florida, CNBC

April 20: at Montreal, 7 p.m., Sun Sports, NBC Sports Network

April 22: at Montreal, 7 p.m., Fox Sports Florida, NHL Network

*April 24: at Tampa, 7 p.m., Sun Sports

*April 27: at Montreal, Sun Sports

*April 29: at Tampa, Fox Sports Florida

*-if necessary

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Jon Cooper's novel approach to home-ice advantage

The Lightning's season finale Sunday at Washington will determine whether Tampa Bay gets home-ice advantage in its first-round playoff series with the Canadiens.

For Lightning coach Jon Cooper, home ice is most important when it comes to hosting a Game 7.

But what if the team with the advantage was forced to play on the road in Game 7? That is what Cooper suggested in a novel approach to how a seven-game playoff series should be structured.

In Cooper's plan, the team with home ice -- that is with four of seven games on its ice -- would play Game 1 on the road, play Games 2, 3 and 4 at home, Game 5 on the road, Game 6 at home and Game 7 on the road.

In other words, the team with home ice would play four of the first six games at home.

"Now that's home ice to me," Cooper said. "I haven't done the research but I'm fairly certain more series are ended in Games 4, 5 and 6 than Game 7, so why would the home ice be in just the last game?"

As for perhaps giving the team without home ice the advantage of hosting a Game 7, Cooper said, "If they've scratched out to a seventh game under those odds, they should get home ice. Food for thought."

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Ryan Malone arrested on DUI, cocaine charges

Lightning left wing Ryan Malone was arrested Saturday morning on charges of driving under the influence and cocaine possession.

"We are aware of the situation concerning Ryan Malone this morning," general manager Steve Yzerman said in a statement. "Ryan will not travel with the team to Washington today, but beyond that we cannot comment further at this time."

Malone, 34, was driving a 2014 Chevrolet Suburban at 3:19 a.m. when he made a left turn on to W Platt Street from the center lane of S Armenia Avenue, Tampa Police said.

Malone then struck a curb at S Howard Avenue and W Platt Street, police said.

A patrol officer conducted a traffic stop and noted an odor of alcoholic beverages on Malone's breath, police said. Malone refused to take a field sobriety test and was arrested for driving under the influence.

A search after his arrest revealed 1.3 grams of cocaine in Malone's right back pocket, police said.

Malone submitted to a breath test at booking. His results showed a blood alcohol content of .112 and .116, police said.

Malone was charged with DUI and possession of cocaine. His Suburban was impounded, police said. …

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Gudas in right place at right time

Adam Hall's backhand shot hits Radko Gudas in the chest, preserving Tampa Bay's 3-1 lead.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Adam Hall's backhand shot hits Radko Gudas in the chest, preserving Tampa Bay's 3-1 lead.

With G Anders Lindback down and out of position with 8:43 left in the third period of Thursday's 4-2 win against the Flyers, D Radko Gudas figured his place was on the goal line.

Good thing. Adam Hall's backhand hit him in the chest, preserving Tampa Bay's 3-1 lead.

" 'Lindy' made the first save and kind of fell, so I just stood behind him to see what's going to happen," Gudas said. "Lucky (the puck) hit me."

Lindback gave Gudas a couple of pats on the back in thanks.

"It was a huge lift, and Lindy was the first guy to tap 'Gudy' and say thanks," Cooper said. "But we were the first to tap Lindy for his performance."

 

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Vinny Lecavalier's second trip to Tampa is special, 'but not like the first time'

Vinny Lecavalier comes to Tampa on a bit of a hot streak with two goals, four points in his past two games and six goals, 11 points in his past 14.

AP photo

Vinny Lecavalier comes to Tampa on a bit of a hot streak with two goals, four points in his past two games and six goals, 11 points in his past 14.

Back in November, the first time former Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier played at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, he said he pretty much was  counting the days until the game. But about tonight's game at the Times Forum, the Flyers center said a lot of the emotions have died down.

"I wouldn't say it's business as usual, but it's not like the first time," he said. "But it's still special to be here."

Lecavalier, who in June was bought out of his Lightning contract and then signed a five-year, $22.5 million contract with the Flyers, comes to Tampa on a bit of a hot streak with two goals, four points in his past two games and six goals, 11 points in his past 14.

Much of that has to do with his return to center after spending a miserable 35 games -- Lecavalier knew the exact number -- at left wing.

"That's definitely something that got me skating more," Lecavalier said of playing in the middle. "Playing left wing was a tough adjustment. I like being on the right side. I like being in the middle. It's a lot more natural for me, a lot more skating. I just feel better there as a player." …

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Ben Bishop will sit out the Lightning's final 3 games, his status for playoffs is uncertain

Ben Bishop will sit out the final three games of the regular season, and the Lightning goaltender's availability for the first round of the playoffs is uncertain.

Though coach Jon Cooper did not rule out Bishop playing in the first round, which is expected to be against the Canadiens, he did not offer a timetable either.

"No, I wouldn't rule him out," Cooper said Wednesday. "I'm not sitting here saying he will (play) but I'm not saying he won't. I guess in saying that, it's not impossible that he would be playing in the first round at some point."

Bishop, who was hurt in the first period of Tuesday's 3-0 victory over the Maple Leafs, fell awkwardly on his left wrist/arm after he extended to catch a floating puck. He skated off the ice, in obvious pain and with help, and had an MRI exam this morning.

Cooper said "as far as I know" the MRI did not show any structural damage.

In that sense, he called the news "encouraging," but he added, "It's discouraging because when you sit back and reflect on what happened and how it happened, and then you watch replays of how it happened, you expect him to pop right up after that." …

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Video: Ben Bishop injured vs. Maple Leafs

Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop left Tuesday night's game with the Maple Leafs in the first period because of an upper-body injury.

Bishop was hurt 5:43 into the first period during a Toronto power play when he dove to glove a floating puck and came down on his left hand/wrist. Bishop stayed down on the ice before skating off with some help, favoring his left side. Tampa Bay said it was an upper-body injury.

Losing Bishop would be a crushing blow for the Lightning entering the playoffs as he entered the game fourth in the league with 37 wins, ninth with a 2.23 goals-against average and tied for sixth with a .924 save percentage.

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Steven Stamkos nominated for Masterton Trophy

Steven Stamkos said he is so focused on the now – “what we have to do to help this team win” – he sometimes losses track of all that happened in the past.

“I just lose the fact that there were so many steps that it took to get back,” the Lightning captain said. “But when I do have time to reflect on it, it was a pretty long haul.”

About four months to be exact, the time it took to rehab from a fractured right tibia that required surgery to fix and the insertion of a titanium rod to facilitate healing.

With 10 goals and 14 points in his first 16 games since his return from an injury that likely won’t be completely healed until next season, Stamkos, 24, is the nominee of the Tampa Bay chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association for the Masterton Trophy given for perseverance and dedication to the sport.

“I think it’s a great honor,” Stamkos said. “When all is said and done in your career you want to be known as a guy who loved the game, is dedicated and worked extremely hard. This year was that adversity moment for me.” …

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Kostka skating again, says, 'I think I've been pretty fortunate'

Mike Kostka sustained a concussion in the third period of Tuesday's 3-1 victory over the Canadiens when he briefly was knocked unconscious by an elbow to the jaw from Montreal defenseman Douglas Murray.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Mike Kostka sustained a concussion in the third period of Tuesday's 3-1 victory over the Canadiens when he briefly was knocked unconscious by an elbow to the jaw from Montreal defenseman Douglas Murray.

Lightning defenseman Mike Kostka was back on the ice during Tuesday's morning skate, though wearing a red no-contact jersey.

Kostka sustained a concussion in the third period of Tuesday's 3-1 victory over the Canadiens when he briefly was knocked unconscious by an elbow to the jaw from Montreal defenseman Douglas Murray. Kostka said his symptoms were minimal (mostly some dizziness) and he has done off-ice workouts with no ill effects.

"I wouldn't be moving forward if I was feeling any of the symptoms," Kostka said. "Just keep pushing forward and, hopefully, it stays like it is. Taking the right steps so I don't jump in there too quickly."

Kostka said he has spoken to friends and teammates who have had both mild and severe concussions and said, "I think I've been pretty fortunate. That's kind of the tricky thing. Sometimes you don't feel much and then out of the blue something pops up. That's why regardless of whether you're feeling really good or not, you just have to be careful with the process to make sure you get back on time and as soon as possible." …

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Q&A with GM Steve Yzerman

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, who has one year left on his contract, signed a four-year extension that locks him up through 2018-19.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, who has one year left on his contract, signed a four-year extension that locks him up through 2018-19.

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, who has one year left on his contract, signed a four-year extension that locks him up through 2018-19.

"We've got a lot of work left to do, and as an organization as a whole and a team (we're) going in the right direction," Yzerman said. "I want to continue with the process, and I'm grateful to get the opportunity to continue."

Yzerman, 48, On Tuesday took some time to share his thoughts on several topics, from his evolution as a general manager to the difficulty, or ease, depending on how you look at it, of maintaining his organizaional vision on the NHL level and with AHL Syracuse. …

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Lightning signs Yzerman to four-year extension

The Lightning has signed vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman to a four-year contract extension, according to a news release issued by the team.

Here is the release: …

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