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Drouin disappointed to be scratched; Garrison not ready

Lightning rookie wing Jonathan Drouin was playing some of his best hockey down the stretch, his confidence rising.

But Drouin, 20, was a healthy scratch for Thursday's Game 1 loss to the Red Wings, and isn't sure if he's going to play Saturday in Game 2 at Amalie Arena. Coach Jon Cooper would only say Friday that "everybody's available," except for defenseman Jason Garrison (upper body).

"I don't make decisions," Drouin said. "I'll be ready to go when they want me. It's the playoffs, not much I can say about it. It's up to them. I'm staying positive and whenever I get back in, I get back."

It was certainly an interesting decision to sit Drouin, who had been playing on the top line with Steven Stamkos late in the season when Alex Killorn was hurt. Cooper had said Drouin was "earning" those opportunities, and was extremely pleased with the progress. The Lightning did play very well Thursday in a lineup that included J.T. Brown and Brenden Morrow, racking up 46 shots in a 3-2 loss, so it may stick with the same group. …

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Lightning playoff opener is sold out

The Lightning announced this afternoon that Game 1 of its first round playoff series with the Red Wings is sold out.

Times files (2014)

The Lightning announced this afternoon that Game 1 of its first round playoff series with the Red Wings is sold out.

The Lightning announced Thursday afternoon that Game 1 of its first round playoff series with the Red Wings is sold out. There are still limited number of tickets available for Game 2 Saturday.

Tonight's game starts at 7:30 pm and is televised locally on Fox Sports Florida.

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Coburn, Sustr, Killorn in; Drouin and Barberio out for Game 1

It appears that rookie wing Jonathan Drouin, pictured, and defenseman Mark Barberio will be scratched for tonight's game.

DIRK SHADD | Times

It appears that rookie wing Jonathan Drouin, pictured, and defenseman Mark Barberio will be scratched for tonight's game.

The Lightning will get defensemen Braydon Coburn and Andrej Sustr, along with forward Alex Killorn back in the lineup for tonight's Game 1 against the Red Wings.

Defenseman Jason Garrison is out, but getting closer.

But those players coming back made for some tough lineup decisions, and it appears rookie wing Jonathan Drouin and defenseman Mark Barberio will be scratched for the first-round opener at Amalie Arena. Rookie defenseman Nikita Nesterov is in, and if Drouin is out, J.T. Brown will join Brian Boyle and Brenden Morrow on the fourth line.

Coach Jon Cooper said these are the 20 players he feels are best for tonight, but that could change by Saturday's Game 2.

"Regardless of who is in or who's out, there's different reasons why, whether it's matchups, or it could be injury related," Cooper said. "Might not be full strength, could be a whole bunch of things why guys are out. One thing about when you're in the playoffs, it's a team, 20 guys are taking the ice, but it may not be the same 20 the next night. But we feel this gives us the best chance to win tonight.

"If you're not healthy, get ready. If you're healthy, be ready to play the next game. That's it." …

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Lightning will be close to full strength for Game 1

Defenseman Andrej Sustr (upper body) plans to play in Game 1.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Defenseman Andrej Sustr (upper body) plans to play in Game 1.

The Lightning will almost be at full strength by Thursday's Game 1 of its first-round playoff series with the Red Wings.

"I don't think everyone is playing," coach Jon Cooper said. "But we'll be close."

Cooper said he expected veteran defenseman Braydon Coburn, out since Mar. 10 with a lower body injury, to play Thursday night. Defenseman Andrej Sustr (upper body) plans to play, too, along with forward Alex Killorn (undisclosed).

The only one who won't will be defenseman Jason Garrison, who got cleared for contact in Wednesday's practice - shedding the red jersey - but is still not ready to go. Cooper indicated if the series went deep, it's "possible" Garrison could play.

In Wednesday's practice, Victor Hedman was paired with Sustr, Anton Stralman with rookie Nikita Nesterov and Coburn with former Flyers teammate Matt Carle. Garrison was with Mark Barberio, who could be the odd-man out for Thursday's Game 1.

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Lightning GM Yzerman will have an 'affinity' with Red Wings 'forever'

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he saw this coming for weeks.

The former iconic Red Wings captain figured Tampa Bay would open the first round of the playoffs agianst his old team, one he led for two decades, winning three Stanley Cups.  And Yzerman, 49, admits it is a bit strange having to compete against a franchise he's so connected to.

Yzerman likely trails only Gordie Howe in terms of beloved Red Wings, so this is a huge storyline for the series.

"I'd prefer to play other teams," Yzerman said. "Obviously I have a tremendous respect for the organization from top to bottom. They've been one of the elite franchises in professional sports for a long time and continue to be and will continue beyond this year.

"Honestly I'm going to have a relationship with the organization my entire life, an affinity for th team forever. I'm proud of what we accomplished. But let's play hockey."

After Yzerman retired in 2006, he spent four years as an executive, grooming himself for his current role with the Lightning. Yzerman said his time in Detroit "impacted every decision" he's made in Tampa Bay. …

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Witkowski reassigned to AHL Syracuse

With the Lightning blueline getting closer to full strength, rookie defenseman Luke Witkowski became the odd man out Tuesday, reassigned to AHL Syracuse.

Defenseman Braydon Coburn (lower body) could return by Thursday's Game 1 against Detroit. Andrej Sustr (upper body) might as well.

With fellow rookie Nikita Nesterov stepping up, earning power play unit (two goals in last two games), Witkowski is being returned. Witkowski played in 16 games over two stints and has handled himself well, using his 6-foot-2 200-pound frame to bring a physical element, including a team high eight hits Saturday.

With the confidence he gained this season, expect him to play a role in next year's team.

 

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Mark Reeds' death hits home for Lightning's Jon Cooper

Lightning coach Jon Cooper joined many in the hockey fraternity Tuesday in mourning the loss of Senators assistant Mark Reeds, who died at age 55 of cancer.

It especially hit home for Cooper as he had just returned from Michigan after going to a funeral Monday for his father-in-law, Steve Novak, who died at age 62 after a similar battle.

"It's just a sad day," Cooper said. "And it really touches home with me, my father in law just passed away of the exact same thing. It makes you sick to your stomach to think about it. All those loved ones (Reed) left behind, to go at such a young age. It's tough. I'm just speechless."

Cooper said he got to know Reeds while coaching for the St. Louis Bandits (NAHL) from 2006-08. Reeds, a former St. Louis Blues forward, was part of that organization's alumni. Cooper spent some time with Reeds' son, Kyle.

"I couldn't have been more fired up when (Reeds) got into the NHL as a coach with Ottawa," Cooper said. "It's tough."

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Braydon Coburn says he could return for Game 1

Veteran defenseman Braydon Coburn indicated he may be able to return by Thursday's Game 1 against the Red Wings.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Veteran defenseman Braydon Coburn indicated he may be able to return by Thursday's Game 1 against the Red Wings.

It looks like the Lightning could get a pretty big boost for the start of the first-round playoff series.

Veteran defenseman Braydon Coburn, 30, indicated he may be able to return by Thursday's Game 1 against the Red Wings. Coburn has been out since Mar. 10 with a lower body injury.

"I think it's a possibility," Coburn said. "It's not a foregone conclusion yet. But I'm trying to get myself back to where if it's a possibility, I can step in."

Coburn has ramped up his skating late after practices in an effort to get his conditioning back. He said he feels close to a 100-percent, and is not concerned his first game in a month will be a playoff game.

"It's still hockey," Coburn said. "I've been lucky enough to be in the playoffs before, I know what mindset you have to get into. I'll definitely use that to my advantage." …

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Injury updates as Lightning prepares for Detroit Red Wings

Alex Killorn missed the final three games of the regular season with an undisclosed injury.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Alex Killorn missed the final three games of the regular season with an undisclosed injury.

BRANDON – Forward Alex Killorn and defenseman Andrej Sustr could be back for the Lightning when it opens the playoffs Thursday night at Amalie Arena.

“By Thursday I’ll be ready to go and 100 percent,” Killorn said after Monday’s practice at the Ice Sports Forum. “Things have progressed well.”

Killorn was no longer in a red, no-contact jersey – which he said was the goal for Monday. He practiced on the top line with Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan, pushing Jonathan Drouin to the fourth line.

Killorn missed the final three games of the regular season with an undisclosed injury.

Sustr (upper-body injury) practiced Monday in a red, no-contact jersey and said his injury has been progressing well. He’s missed the last six games but is targeting a return for Thursday.

“That’s what we’re aiming for,” Sustr said. “Obviously it’s still three days away.”

Defenseman Braydon Coburn practiced again in a normal jersey. It’s still unclear whether he’ll be ready for Game 1 against Detroit.  …

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Lightning-Red Wings first round schedule set

The Lightning will open its first-round playoff series against the Red Wings Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Amalie Arena, the NHL announced this morning.

It will be televised on CNBC and Sportsnet. FSN/Sun Sports could broadcast Games 1,3,4, but that hasn't been announced yet.

Here's the rest of the schedule

Game 2: Saturday, April 18, 3 p.m., Amalie Arena, NBC, CBC

Game 3: Tuesday, April 21, 7 p.m,, Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, NBCSN, Sportsnet

Game 4: Thursday, April 23, 7 p.m,, Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, NBCSN, CBC

Game 5 (if necessary): Saturday, April 25, TBD, Amalie Arena, TBD.

Game 6 (if necessary): Monday, April 27, TBD, Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, TBD

Game 7 (if necessary): Wednesday, April 29, TBD, Amalie Arena, TBD.

There are still limited tickets available for the Lightning's home playoff games; go to Ticketmaster, Amalie Arena box office, or tampabaylightning.com.

 

 

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Lightning ready for Red Wings in first round

It's the matchup that seemed most likely for weeks, the Lightning facing the Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs.

There's certainly no shortage of storylines, including Lightning GM Steve Yzerman being the former iconic Red Wings captain.

But it should also be an entertaining series, two skilled, fast teams battling it out beginning Thursday at Amalie Arena. And while the Lightning has taken three of the four meetings this season, captain Steven Stamkos said that matters little anymore.

"They're another team that, every year, they're in the mix," Stamkos said. "They've got a lot of veteran guys and young skill guys, very well coached. They've played well down the stretch to get where they are. I think the team that's more prepared to sacrifice going in is going to win the series."

While the Lightning has had the Red Wings number in recent seasons, it got thumped 4-0 in Detroit Marc 28, the only time it got shut out this season. …

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Jonathan Drouin sick, and more notes before Game 82

TAMPA – A few quick notes from today’s morning skate at Amalie Arena:

* Wing Jonathan Drouin is sick. The Lightning hasn’t said whether he’ll play tonight, but the team recalled F Jonathan Marchessault from AHL-Syracuse.

* Boston remains alive for the playoffs, and center Steven Stamkos said the Lightning wouldn’t mind ending the Bruins’ postseason chances with a win.

“Any team in the league would love to knock a team like this out because of how dangerous they can be come playoff time,” Stamkos said. “I think you look at LA, and you look at Boston. Those are the teams that no matter where they finish, (if) they get into the playoffs, anything can happen because of the personnel that they have, the experience that they have. With LA being out, I think everyone in the West can sleep a little easier. Obviously if Boston doesn’t make it, teams are a little happier here.”

* Ben Bishop was the first goalie off the ice and is expected to start tonight. A win would give him 40 for the season.

“It doesn’t mean much, to be honest,” Bishop said of the milestone. “Obviously it’s a nice number, I guess. It’s going to be important to go out and play well, kind of get ready for the playoffs.”  …

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Join our Live Lightning Chat Monday at noon

With the NHL playoffs less than a week away, there's plenty to talk about when it comes to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

How far can they go? Which of the injured players - Jason Garrison, Braydon Coburn, Alex Killorn - will be back? How does Tampa Bay match up with its first-round opponent?

Join me for a live Lightning chat Monday at noon here. Feel free to send some questions early and I'll tackle them once we start.

 

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Victor Hedman to return tonight

Victor Hedman had been out since getting hurt Mar. 30 against Montreal, but hoped to get in at least one more game before the playoffs begin April 16.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Victor Hedman had been out since getting hurt Mar. 30 against Montreal, but hoped to get in at least one more game before the playoffs begin April 16.

The Lightning will get a big boost tonight against the Devils with defenseman Victor Hedman returning to the lineup.

Hedman had been out since getting hurt Mar. 30 against Montreal, but hoped to get in at least one more game before the playoffs begin April 16.

"If it wasn't the case, it wouldn't have been a big deal," Hedman said. "But for me, I think I've mimssed too many games this year, missed a lot with the broken finger and a few more with injuries, so it's obviously been a tough year that way."

Defenseman Braydon Coburn was skating in a regular jersey, progressing from his lower-body injury. But coach Jon Cooper said it'd be "a gift" if Coburn was ready by Game 1.

C Alex Killorn (undisclosed injury) and D Andrej Sustr (upper body) were skating in red non-contact jerseys. Both likely won't return this weekend, but Cooper said they're "probable" for Game 1. D Jason Garrison (upper body), who skated on his own, is "doubtful."

Killorn said he got hurt in Thursday's 2-1 overtime loss to Ottawa, but didn't "realize the severity" until Saturday's morning skate. "It kind of surprised me," he said. …

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Victor Hedman 'inching' toward Thursday return

Defenseman Victor Hedman practiced for the second day in a row and is still eyeing toward a return Thursday night against the Devils.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Defenseman Victor Hedman practiced for the second day in a row and is still eyeing toward a return Thursday night against the Devils.

BRANDON – A few quick updates after Wednesday’s practice at the Ice Sports Forum:

Defenseman Victor Hedman practiced for the second day in a row and is still eyeing toward a return Thursday night against the Devils.

“He’s inching toward return,” coach Jon Cooper said. “Whether that’s tomorrow or Saturday, we’ll decide on that tomorrow. He’s feeling pretty good. That’s a good sign.”

Hedman’s return seems even more likely after the team reassigned defenseman Slater Koekkoek to Syracuse on Wednesday afternoon.

Hedman reported no major issues after back-to-back practices. He’s missed the last three games with a lower-body injury.

Forward Vladislav Namestnikov missed Wednesday’s practice because of illness. Cooper said the sickness isn’t expected to keep Namestnikov out of Thursday’s game. With Namestnikov absent, forward Jonathan Drouin worked on the top line and on another line, with Valtteri Filppula and Cedric Paquette.

Defenseman Braydon Coburn skated in a red no-contact jersey for the second consecutive day. He didn’t participate in every drill as he continues to work his way back from a lower-body injury.  …

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