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Cooper indicated there could be lineup changes for Game 4

At forward, tonight would seem like a good opportunity to put in rookie wing Jonathan Drouin, who has been scratched the first three games.

DIRK SHADD | Times

At forward, tonight would seem like a good opportunity to put in rookie wing Jonathan Drouin, who has been scratched the first three games.

With the Lightning needing a win tonight in Game 4 against Detroit, trailing 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, coach Jon Cooper left the door open for potential tweaks to his lineup.

"Could there be changes? Sure," he said.

Cooper said he's liked how his team has played in the first three games. But there are a couple possibilities here. Defenseman Jason Garrison, out since March 28 with an upper body injury, said he'll be a "game-time" decision tonight. He hasn't been told if he's taking warm-ups.

"I feel comfortable on the ice," he said. "So it's not my decision as far as that goes. I'm preparing myself like I'm going to play. When I get the 'yes' or 'no,' I'll be ready."

If Garrison comes back, that'll make for a tough decision for Cooper on who to take out? With rookie Nikita Nesterov playing so well, leading the Lightning in playoff points, it'd be hard to scratch him. Another option is Andrej Sustr. …

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Charles Barkley gives Cooper/Lightning a shout-out

With the Lightning heading into a must-win Game 4 tonight in Detroit, trailing 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, it got a shout-out from an unexpected fan: Charles Barkley.

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With the Lightning heading into a must-win Game 4 tonight in Detroit, trailing 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, it got a shout-out from an unexpected fan: Charles Barkley.

With the Lightning heading into a must-win Game 4 tonight in Detroit, trailing 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, it got a shout-out from an unexpected fan:

Charles Barkley.

Barkley, the former NBA star and current TNT analyst, wrapped up Wednesday's "Inside the NBA" show talking about hockey, and put this out here:

"Come on Tampa Bay. I haven't given up on you yet Coach Coop."

"Coop," of course, is Lightning coach Jon Cooper, who met Barkley last year while on a Lightning road trip in Los Angeles. The two spent a couple hours together, and sparked mutual respect.

"You have one perception of a guy on TV and I grew up watching him play," Cooper said. "But after spending a few hours with the guy, I'll be honest. He's one of the greatest guys I've ever met. I marveled how he is with other people, the stories he told, how genuine he was. This is just the perfect example. I haven't spoken to him in six months and for him to be following us and cheering for us, that shows the class of the guy. It's awesome."

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Lightning confident heading into Game 4: 'It's far from over'

“Guys realize the magnitude of the next game,” captain Steven Stamkos said. “Not much needs to be said.”

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“Guys realize the magnitude of the next game,” captain Steven Stamkos said. “Not much needs to be said.”

There’s no question the Red Wings played their best game of the series in Tuesday’s 3-0 win over the Lightning.

“We looked like a real hockey team,” Detroit coach Mike Babcock said.

But the Lightning felt it didn’t look - or play - like itself in a frustrating loss, which makes for easier adjustments heading into a must-win Game 4 Thursday at Joe Louis Arena. Tampa Bay trails the best-of-seven series 2-1.

“Guys realize the magnitude of the next game,” captain Steven Stamkos said. “Not much needs to be said.”

Said wing Ondrej Palat: “It’s far from over.”

The Lightning doesn’t need to re-invent the wheel, just get back to the type of style and effort that led it to win a club-record 50 games and dominate portions of Games 1 and 2. On Tuesday, it was a shell of itself, with All-Star center Tyler Johnson saying they were “lost” at times.

“We didn’t play our game at all,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to focus on ourselves. We shot ourselves in the foot the entire game. I think everybody is a little frustrated by the way we played. Our effort needs to be better. It’s about us.” …

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Cooper: Drouin will play in playoffs

Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said today that Jonathan Drouin will get to play at some point during these playoffs.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said today that Jonathan Drouin will get to play at some point during these playoffs.

Lightning rookie Jonathan Drouin will be a healthy scratch for tonight's Game 3, the third straight game he's sat out.

But coach Jon Cooper said today that Drouin will get to play at some point during these playoffs. Cooper said he initially sat Drouin to ease him into an "eye-opening" experience, but now doesn't want to change a successful lineup.

"Am I going to sit here and say, 'Jonathan Drouin is not going to play in the playoffs? Not a chance," Cooper said. "He's going to get in at some point. I know learning from last year, I remember (Nikita) Kucherov, he opened the round against Montreal, and (Richard) Panik. It's an eye opening experience for them and sometimes, whether I'm right or wrong in this regard, it's better to take a step back and watch what's going on before you get in there."

Kucherov played in the first two games against Montreal as a rookie last season, scoring a goal in Game 1, but was a healthy scratch in Games 3 and 4. Drouin, the No. 3 overall pick in 2013, was scratched four times during the regular season, but still racked up four goals and 28 assists in 70 games. …

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Red Wings' Quincey: Stamkos didn't bite me

Red Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey laughed off the suggestion that Lightning captain Steven Stamkos bit him during Saturday's first-period scrum.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

Red Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey laughed off the suggestion that Lightning captain Steven Stamkos bit him during Saturday's first-period scrum.

Red Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey laughed off the suggestion that Lightning captain Steven Stamkos bit him during Saturday's first-period scrum, putting the ridiculous internet rumor to rest.

Stamkos had Quincey in a head-lock during the melee, with each serving roughing penalties (Quincey getting four minutes).

"If he was biting my hand, it was my glove and not my fingers," Quincey told the Detroit News Monday. "I didn't feel anything. I didn't see any pictures. That's the first I heard of it."

Stamkos, similarly, was surprised Saturday to hear the allegation, chalking it up to social media silliness.

"My teeth, they're all fake," Stamkos said. "They'll fall out if I bite somebody."

Quincey was more concerned with how he got a four-minute penalty and Stamkos got just two minutes. The Lightning's Tyler Johnson scored on the ensuing power play.

"I never go after a guy like Stamkos, that's not in the hockey rules," Quincey said. "To get two minutes for roughing.. I never saw  him coming, he choked me from behind."

 

 

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Garrison doubtful for Game 3, but getting closer

Jason Garrison, who has been out with an upper-body injury since March 28, is encouraged with his progress, and it appears he could be back this week.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Jason Garrison, who has been out with an upper-body injury since March 28, is encouraged with his progress, and it appears he could be back this week.

Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison isn't likely to return to the lineup by Tuesday's Game 3 in Detroit.

"Doubtful," coach Jon Cooper said. "He's probably out."

But Garrison, who has been out with an upper-body injury since Mar 28, is encouraged with his progress, and it appears he could be back this week. Originally scheduled to be out 3-4 weeks, the four week mark is Saturday's Game 5.

Cooper said after Tuesday, Garrison will start being a "game-time decision."

"I feel like I'm off the week-to-week basis and now day-to-day." Garrison said. "I'm trying to regain the strength that I lost. I feel everyday is closer to where I was before. It's a matter of time. Whenever that's healed, I'll be out there." …

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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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