Lightning journal: J.T. Miller returns to practice

Also, D Braydon Coburn might be available for the Lightning vs. Columbus.
J.T. Miller scored his first goal as a member of the Lightning on Saturday. He has three points in his last two games. (DIRK SHADD | Times)
J.T. Miller scored his first goal as a member of the Lightning on Saturday. He has three points in his last two games. (DIRK SHADD | Times)
Published January 7
Updated January 7

TAMPA — For the first time in 2019, J.T. Miller practiced with the Lightning.

Wearing a red no-contact sweater, Miller took part in a full team practice Monday for the first time since being placed on injured reserve Dec. 29. He has not played since sustaining an upper-body injury against Philadelphia on Dec. 27.

After practice, Miller said he is not sure how close he is to returning. "But I am feeling better every day," he said.

Monday was not Miller's first time stepping on the ice since the injury. He skated twice over the past three days.

"Skating pretty much as hard as I can," Miller said. "I just have to see how the pain is and kind of go from here."

Miller remains week-to-week, Lightning assistant coach Derek Lalonde said. He is, however, ahead of schedule.

"A lot of optimism with the way the last couple of skates have gone," Lalonde said.

The Lightning is not going to rush him back. There's no need. The team's forward depth remains strong. Adam Erne, who has played in 28 games, scored two goals in the third period to lead the Lightning to a win over the Canadiens on Dec. 29.

The Lightning wouldn't mind having Miller back, though. He has scored seven goals and tallied 19 assists this season.

"The team is playing really well," Miller said. I don't want to miss any time, but obviously, I have to make sure I am ready when I come back."

Coburn full participant in practice

D Braydon Coburn missed Saturday's game against San Jose with an upper-body injury, but he is not expected to miss much more time. He wore a normal practice sweater Monday as a full participant.

Coburn should be available for Tuesday's game vs. Columbus, Lalonde said.

"He is probably still day-to-day," Lalonde said. "I think they are going to see how he reacted from practice today."

Even if Coburn can't go, the Lightning still has six healthy defensemen in Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman, Ryan McDonagh, Erik Cernak, Dan Girardi Mikhail Sergachev. If Coburn is available, the Lightning will have to continue its nightly rotation of third-pair defensemen. Slater Koekkoek remains in AHL Syracuse on a conditioning assignment.

New challenges at home

San Jose snapping Tampa Bay's 16-game point streak was not the way the Lightning wanted to cap its West Coast road trip. But the actual loss at face value meant little more than the Lightning missing out on two points like any other loss.

The Lightning, however, has to make sure any emotional letdown from the streak ending does not linger.

"There was a sense of urgency," Lalonde said. " 'Let's keep this going.' I think there's a little human nature. Now that you get through that stretch, I think it's natural that there could be a letdown to it. The next game is a big challenge."

Not to mention, the first game back after long road trips can also present challenges. It's why Lightning coach Jon Cooper put together a quick, energetic practice, as Lalonde described it.

"I give the guys credit today," Lalonde said. "They had a little more energy than I would have expected."

Special lunch after practice

After the energetic practice Monday, the Lightning played host to a lunch for members of the military at Amalie Arena alongside Lightning players. The Lightning hopes to make it an annual event.